CD: Foals - What Went Down | reviews, news & interviews
CD: Foals - What Went Down
CD: Foals - What Went Down
Fourth album from Oxford rockers takes itself too seriously
Coming to Foals without the baggage – without knowing, for example, that they’re a British guitar band of mid-Noughties vintage – is a disconcerting experience, not least where fourth album What Went Down is concerned. Opening with a huge, heavy title track that – at least by its mid-section – appears to owe a heavy, screaming debt to the band’s recent association with Metallica, by its end the album checks off anthemic indie rock, beats-driven electronic experimentation and the sort of widescreen, cinematic sound beloved of contemporaries from the other side of the Atlantic.
Foals are frequently praised for their live performance and, on the evidence, it’s not hard to see why: the album’s bigger, more atmospheric songs in particular seem built to blow the roof off a stadium tour or hit that communal sweet spot at a festival where every sound, every sensation becomes heavy with meaning and anticipation. There is no denying that What Went Down is epic, note-perfect and beautifully made but – and here is where it loses me – the finished product is something akin to the TV show Hannibal. I can appreciate it on an aesthetic level, but all that manpain leaves me cold, and prevents me from connecting with it on an emotional one.
Much like Orlando Weeks of the Maccabees – a band whose career parallels Foals in many ways, not least in the fact that both released their fourth album within weeks of each other – frontman Yannis Philippakis takes his cues from the daemonic preacher school of lead vocals. Unlike his contemporary, though, there’s a humourlessness in Philippakis’s delivery that proves difficult to relate to, as he sways and shrieks his way through epic album midpoint “Albatross” or distorts it with reverb and rock star posturing on “Snake Oil”. While there are moments of properly transformative beauty here – “Mountain At My Gates”, which starts off as perhaps the most conventional stadium rock song on the album, ends in a haze of feedback and a drum beat that sold its soul to the devil – the overall package misses the mark.
Overleaf: hear title track "What Went Down"
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?