Foals: Total life Forever
Warner Music/Transgressive Records (2010)
Well, it’s been a while. Life has changed radically for me in recent months. New job; new house; personal shit. If you’re a true music nerd, you’ll have those records that will forever remind you of a particular period in your life, both good and bad times. The new Foals album Total Life Forever is going to be one of those records for me. It could not have been released at a more appropriate time. I’ve listened to pretty much nothing else for the past two months.
On their debut Antidotes, the English quintet traded in a math-rock meets post-punk showdown that I fell head over heels for. Spiky rhythms and three part guitar harmonies that fluttered about high up the fret board, mixed with serotonin breakdowns that would have crowds at the Halcyon blush.
Two years later and Foals sound like a disco version of Pornagraphy era The Cure; sombre and ephemeral, awash with tragedy but also bouncy and even a little bit fluffy. Like rain-filled clouds. The 4/4 stomps have been replaced with more complex drum patterns that still tingle your toes despite the blue vibe of proceedings. Previously tinny guitars are now delayed and reverb-ed into ghostly apparitions. Where Foals used to be tight and analytical, these songs are much more loose and prone to meandering ambience.
Most of the reference points on the record might be too familiar, even mainstream but I swear that Foals manage to shake their influences up into a drink that you’ve never tasted before. After Glow starts as an anxious ballad before exploding into a funked-out jam like those early !!! records. Miami is classic late eighties Cure with its bopping rhythm, grinding bass and strained vocal lines; on 2 Trees they channel the underwater jangle of Radiohead circa Kid A complete with digital meltdown outro, while the record’s opening number Blue Blood is some sort of ska infused Acid Jazz jam that builds into a glittery crescendo of delayed arpeggios.
For a bunch of guys that always look oh so serious in photo shoots perhaps the greatest thing about Total Life Forever is that its melancholia is at least thinly disguised in a sense of freedom and good times. Maybe that’s what works so well for me right now – Foals allow me to get sentimental and melodramatic without having to break out my Kafka novels and feel like the world is coming to an end. Certainly, Total Life Forever has been a much healthier saviour than the Smiths records I started out listening to a few months back.
Evol Kween has returned to regular programming.