Welcome to the latest edition of ‘Golden Vault’, where we delve into the annals of music to bring you a classic album. You’ll know some like the back of your hand and nothing of others. We hope to get you reacquainted with old friends and create new favourites. The album to be taken out of the Golden Vault for reappraisal this week is 'Antidotes' by Foals.
The only things guaranteed in this life are death, taxes and a Foals' show ending with Two Steps, Twice.
A song in two parts - during which frontman Yannis Philippakis will take it upon himself to scale the building before flinging himself into the crowd like a crust of bread to ducks - Two Steps, Twice remains the jewel of Antidotes’ crown.
On its 10 year-anniversary, Laura Martin of Real Life PR and the band's rep called the album “ahead of its time in many ways”. True enough, and yet, it’s a record that, for whatever reason, feels much older. It’s a record that’s associated with a particular era of pop-culture, in which bands played at house parties; when they were the original 'vloggers', uploading awkward, poorly shot tour diaries. And the chasm which stretches between it, and most recent effort 'What Went Down', is vast.
They were a curious entity at the time, with the majority of members having sacrificed their Oxford education for a music career and four-on-the-floor prog rock. And yet, this was also the band that told the BBC, after being featured on their Sound Of 2008 list that they did not know how to play guitar chords and did not know what the single notes they play are called. They gave off a very definitive waft of pretentiousness - something which could have easily derailed them,
"Before, we'd sit there chin-stroking, talking about Kafka or whatever. And now we just talk about 'When's soundcheck?' 'Where's the rider?'"
The Oxford quintet’s debut brought math rock to a new audience, characterised by the knew-jerk rhythms changes in the likes of the The French Open and the aforementioned Two Steps, Twice. Prior to this, singles Mathletics and Hummer provided a taste of what was to come - namely the signature angular guitar line dressed with processed synths and shouty chorus on the latter.
“We collectively decided that there was no need for repetition and to keep moving forward,” Toby L, cofounder of Transgressive Records explained on the decision to not include the tracks on the standard release of the album.
'Antidotes', as it’s known, almost didn’t come to exist. Foals listened to the initial mix by TV On The Radio's Dave Sitek, and decided to scrap it and start again. Rarely has a second pop at a full-length record sounded so polished and confident (though the lads themselves have since said that reports of a full do-over were grossly over-exaggerated).
It's still the material crowds clamour towards. At the band's recorded Royal Albert Hall show their performance of Electric Boom embodies everything they've ever spoken about, capturing the essence of a ritual in their sound. Red Socks Pugie cocoons the fragile heart of the track with its own nervous energy.
It's never been a case of topping 'Antidotes' for the band - or even simply trying to do it again - but it laid the blueprint for where they were going as an outfit, rather than, perhaps, where their music was. Ego was channelled to become confidence when it came to the band's own stage presence; theme was examined more widely (perhaps to their detriment) on 'Total Life Forever'.
'Antidotes' is a joyous, rambunctious listen ten years later. While it's a world away from what we know of them (and probably what they will become), it provided Foals with roots to grow.