The world that Foals made their last album ‘What Went Down’ in, almost feels like a distant memory at this stage. 2015 preceded one of the most turbulent years in recent history, with the Brexit vote and Trump’s election shaking up the political system.
Foals found themselves in the thick of it when on the day of their set at Glastonbury 2016, Brexit became a reality. As the band so often do, they took it in their stride, with frontman Yannis Philippakis telling the crowd, “I know for a lot of people today was a disappointing day but whatever the politics, the sun is out, this is a big day for you, a big day for us – let’s make this special.”
Foals have never been an overtly political band, but on their new LP ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1’, they are very clearly in tune with the world around them. The lead single Exits is definitely the most politically and socially charged song on the album. During the verse, Yannis paints a picture of a dystopian future, “And the black sky came down, And the cities underground, The flowers upside down.”
The music also plays its part in bringing this future to life with meaty guitar hooks and stuttering synth lines. For an album that deals with themes of global warming, data privacy and surveillance, Exits acts as the band’s manifesto.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, as Foals are fully adept at balancing their more weighty numbers with some genuine floor fillers. While their new album isn’t as easy to pin down to one sound, it takes the best elements of their previous work and combines them.
There’s the precision math rock of ‘Antidotes’, the synth infused soundscapes of ‘Total Life Forever’ and the hard rock edge of ‘Holy Fire’. In Degrees is a track which typifies this meshing of styles. It’s a suave and seductive number with an irresistible groove, as a mix of drums and percussion surround a punchy synth bass that never lets up. In many ways it feels like My Number’s older more sophisticated cousin… and that’s a good thing.
While there is still room for experimentation with the likes of Cafe D’Athens (their most Radioheadesque song to date), there is a real sense on this album that Foals aren’t searching for a new sound anymore. They’re content with where they’ve settled musically and there is a confidence that exudes from them throughout the record. It’s also their most complete album to date, where soaring indie rock anthems are contrasted by intimate ballads.
‘I’m Done With The World (& It’s Done With Me) is a stunning example of the latter, as we hear Yannis at his most vulnerable and the band at their most captivating.
With this being the first part of a two part project, Foals also show a level restraint which makes the album feel like a much tighter release. The band promised that the second album (which is due for release in September), will be a much heavier affair and compared to their previous work this feels like a more laid back release.
Splitting things up in this way works wonders and it feels like Foals were less inclined to cram all of their ideas and influences into one album. As a result of this, it’s a remarkably accomplished record which sees Foals finally perfect their formula of ambient indie rock.