Never mind Madonna getting a haircut and a new dress and the press fawning all over her calling it a reinvention, Foals know the true meaning of a reinvention. In 2008 they were all set to be a one-trick pony – albeit a popular one – when the death of nu-rave saw the rise of its less acerbic, more chilled-out younger brother. 2008’s ‘Antidotes’ brought songs to dance and pose to, with the keen-eared detecting a math-rock influence. ‘Total Life Forever’ emerged in 2010 and was completely the opposite of what everyone expected, coming across as the next best thing to a Frightened Rabbit album, Yannis Philippakis’ anguished wails even carrying an undeniable similarity to Scott Hutchison’s. It’s a more emotional affair than the clinical first album but still carrying the brittle sonic shimmer and attention to numbers. All this considered, the third album was anyone’s guess. Until now.
At first casual listen, ‘Holy Fire’ appears to be a return to the geometry of the first album but the minimalist approach has been eschewed in favour of a more Kasabian-like bombast, echoed Ian Brown-esque calls and powerful driving beats in Prelude and Inhaler signalling an intent to take on stadiums in the future. Even straight up dance tracks like My Number show a new friendliness and accessibility, a jangly everyman piece of 80s pop.
Careful inspection though shows ‘Total Life Forever’ has not been forgotten, introspective Bad Habit – as pretty as it is – is more of a songwriter’s song, plumbing the depths of self-loathing. It’s an album that never stands still for a moment, mesmerizing bass lines and jerky percussions underlying floating guitar lines, complex to the point that no two listens of the album are ever exactly alike, the ghostly Milk and Black Spiders enlivened by descending guitars laid over a dour vocal, gunshot-like drums heightening both the anticipation and the gloom. Ending on something of a downer with the beautifully building chill out Moon it’s an album that, on the whole, goes where you don’t expect, twisting and turning in a maze of a listen. And if the ending is too chilled out for you? Perfect excuse to go back to the start and begin your ‘Holy Fire’ journey again.