4 May 2010
Foals' second album, Total Life Forever, is the latest to recieve a 9/10 rating here on Hitsville U.K. and that means an "In Celebration Of..." post. Enjoy...
First of all, the pre-release hype for “Total Life Forever” has been at fever pitch ever since “Spanish Sahara” made its way on to the internet and has rarely let up, save for a bit of unjust backlash when “This Orient” appeared. Fanboys have been eagerly waiting for proof that Foals are the new Radiohead, or some equally hyperbolic statement, whilst detractors have been queuing up to shoot the band down as arty, student, math-rock bollocks...or something as equally well-thought out and intelligent. If their debut “Antidotes” was something of a curveball to those expecting an album full of “Hummer”-esque indie disco hits, then this should be perfect for them. For those who wanted Foals to go all out and fully embrace their experimental side, then this should also be pretty much perfect. In other words, Foals have made the best follow-up they could have possibly made.
Forgive me for getting all oxymoronic, but the most noticeable thing on first listen is how chaotic and dense the new tracks sound, yet they’re mostly straightforward indie-rock songs and, dare I say, even a little poppy. The plaintive picking on album opener “Blue Blood” gives way to the kind of indie funk last seen on Friendly Fires’ debut album or Franz Ferdinand’s third, before evolving into a whirlwind of noise that first time round listen sounds messy, but repeat listens reveal that everything is in its right place (sorry, that’ll be the only Radiohead pun here). The funk strut carries on into “Miami”, which has ‘big hit’ branded on it. The title track and “Black Gold” continue in the same vein until we hit “Spanish Sahara”. Near-7 minute comeback tracks seem to be the vogue right now (see; The Horrors, Blood Red Shoes etc) so it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise that Foals returned with one. What is a surprise is Yannis Philippakis’ vocals. Whereas on “Antidotes” he usually sounded like a yapping terrier with a fringe, Yannis now sounds a little more assured in his own voice and ability to sing. Alright, he’s not exactly Florence Welch when it comes to singing, but he does have a unique voice which comes into its own on “Spanish Sahara”. Accompanied only by a solitary guitar and a drumbeat that sounds a million miles away, the track gradually builds from these three elements to swirling alt. pop brilliance. One of the tracks of the year already, it’s obviously the standout and it’s clear to see why some fans were disappointed with the next track “This Orient”.
A great song on its own, but coming straight after “Spanish Sahara” didn’t really help. If anything, “This Orient” is a better example of the depth of the album than the previous track. Verging on FM rock, the song is perfectly layered with every instrument and voice complimenting each other. In fact, “This Orient” is probably Foals most pop moment yet. The first half of “Total Life Forever” is pop, in a roundabout way. Justin Bieber and The Jonas Brothers would kill for some of the hooks that Foals have crammed into the first six tracks, if they weren’t the spawn of Satan and whatnot. But after the instrumental interlude of “Fugue” segues into “After Glow” the band lets their experimental side run free. Sounding a little like “Born Slippy” at the start (at least it does to me) the latter becomes a tornado of tribal dumming, screeching guitars and typical Foals riffs. “Alabaster” and “2 Trees” are possibly the most downbeat Foals songs yet, with the latter being the best on the album after “Spanish Sahara”, but it has competition from “What Remains”, the album’s closer. With guitars alternately sounding like harps and drills, it might not reach the indie discos but it rounds of an album which gives further evidence that Foals truly are a special band.
FOR FANS OF: Radiohead, Bloc Party, These New Puritans,
ESSENTIAL: "Blue Blood", "Miami", "Spanish Sahara", "This Orient", "2 Trees", "What Remains"