Photo from bbc.co.uk
By Justin Cole
Foals has made a giant change to their sound with their new album “What Went Down.” Relying less on the dance-rock roots of previous albums, the English indie-rock band is leaning on a psychedelic, heavy, arena rock sound — leading them to make possibly the heaviest and loudest record of their career.
Foals straps on their boots and walks through the hard dirt on some of the more prominent tracks of “What Went Down.” You can hear it in front man Yannis Philippakis’ stiff upper lip on lines like “So don’t step to me kid, you’ll never be found/ Cause while you were sleeping I took over your town.” The grit in his voice and in his lyrics play a more blatant role on this album than it did on their previous release “Holy Fire.”
Check out the stunning virtual reality music video for their single “Mountain At My Gates” above
It seems as though Foals has let go of control on this release, which is a good thing.
They are relying less on complex guitar and drum arrangements, and instead are opening up what seems like years of bottled up aggression by letting loose explosive guitars and bellowing drums to play center stage on the album.
“Snake Oil” proves to be the most aggressive track on the release. It plays something like the combination of a Led Zeppelin and Mutemath single.
While still staying true to some elements of their dance-rock trademark, they bring in the over driven jolt of low electric guitars, a loud and aggressive 4/4-drum beat and vocals that sound like a hybrid of The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas and Roger Daltry of The Who.
The quiet songs are true to form for Foals. They start out with a combination of subdued vocals, ambient guitars and distant keyboards; all swelling into a dreamlike frenzy at the pinnacle of the song.
“Give it All” is a testament to this sound. Philippakis’ whispering vocals plead, “Give me something I haven’t seen / give me the red light turning green / give me the words but not the page / give me it all” while backed by a soft synth. Together, the band’s delivery of the words and the music almost breaks the listener’s heart.
Lyrically, this album seems like the diary of a man plummeting into madness.
Philippakis specified in an interview with NME that he drew influence from the stream of consciousness lyrics of Frank Black, lead vocalist of The Pixies.
He stated “I wanted to tap into my inner madman and feel like I was channeling some sort of fevered creature.” The viciousness of the lyrics paired with the pleading ferocity in Philippakis’ vocals carries this theme and translates it to the audience.
Overall, this album is a must, not only for fans of Foals, but anyone looking for a rich listening experience. Musically and lyrically, this album is exactly where it needs to be — it is short and sweet, but still dense in sound, leaving no room for filler noise.
If you like Foals, you will also like Mutemath, The National, My Morning Jacket and Arcade Fire.