Tag Archives: Indie-Rock

Foals: What Went Down (…my expectations)

27 Dec

What_went_down_coverBy Travis Carlyle

Don’t expect anything ground-breaking or awe-inspiring from Foals’ latest release: you’ve heard it all before.

The band has charted a path down a road that they have carved out as their sound: a mixture of leather-jacket rock and roll with tracks filled with stadium-like energy (such as the album’s opening title track), and others that are toned down a tad to emanate smoke-filled bar mystique (such as closing track “A Knife In The Ocean”).

The huge, hell-bent tornado-esque songs that appear on debut album Antidotes (2008), are a fractured glimmer of a band Foals seem to not want to be anymore. It doesn’t feel like they’ve grown up, or grown out of this sound – just decided it’s not for them.

Another element of their past that they’ve seemingly tossed aside is their devotion to the ballad. “Spanish Sahara” (Total Life Forever [2010]) will remain one of the best songs humanity has ever had the pleasure of hearing, but Foals now seem unwilling to craft a song of its nature. Gone are the pain-staking buildups and intricate instrumentations of Total Life Forever, replaced now with the more anthemmy, radio-rock focused sound of their second-most recent release, Holy Fire (2013).

While the product you get in What Went Down is definitely more unified, it feels half-arsed in its capacity. Fans of the band know what Foals can craft and create, and it’s a lot more than this.

This is in no way helped by the fact that the two best tracks on the album, which are also the first two tracks on the disc, were the two tracks released as singles by the band… see the problem? Once “Mountain at My Gates” is done playing, I just don’t feel the urge to relisten to any other track on this release, and that’s a real shame for a band that once created such varied and complex work.

There are essentially four or five solid tracks on this album, and the rest just sound like clones of them. On their own, each track is decent, but as a collective, the album feels monotonous. Foals would have done well stripping down this selection to five songs and releasing these as an EP, rather than watering down strong new material with boring filler tracks.

If you want to dig into Foals the cynic in me would recommend listening to Holy Fire instead, as “Give It All” and “Albatross” are as good as this album will get beyond the singles you have undoubtedly already heard.

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Michelle‘s comments: Trav hits the nail on the head here: Foals are refining their sound and carving out their niche to delicious effect, but this niche is getting frustratingly small. I still think there is some beautiful music on this album, but it’ll take quite a few listens through to differentiate between the tracks, as they all sound dully similar to the casual ear. We know from Foals’ earlier, much more varied albums that they definitely have more hidden up their hip leather sleeves than this.