holy-fire-foals

“I feel insecure about the way in which many bands get treated.” So Foals’ Yannis Philippakis confided in Loud And Quiet, many moons ago. “We’re like a big zebra carcass dying in the Serengeti with vultures circling,” he said, “but we can still operate a gun and pick them off.”

By them, we assume he meant the coin-chasing industry, trends, press and other bands. Really anything that may get in their way.

Later that same evening, at a hometown show in Oxford, he and his band thrashed about on stage as if the Mayan’s had handed them a note saying: “Make it a good ‘un, lads, this time the world really is over.” They picked every note and sucked every hot breath as if it was their last.

That was in 2008, and even as a fledging band, fond of fashionable DFA-style cowbells and disco-beats, there was a sense that there was something much more sustainable, something more indestructible about Foals than their peers.

2011’s ‘Total Life Forever’ nuked any doubt. A giant leap in maturity, it had epic songs. Anthems, even. Huge headline gigs followed and a Mercury Prize nomination vindicated their efforts. And so to ‘Holy Fire’ then, which for all of Philippakis’ pre-release talk of “funk” and “stinky grooves” still builds on the brewing formula established by ‘Total Life…’ rather than ‘Antidotes’. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of growth here, and of course there are a couple of immediate biters. There’s no puzzling over the sheer enormity of ‘Inhaler’, for example, Yannis doing his best Perry Farrell (“SPAAACE!”) impression over a sledgehammer riff last seen setting off firecrackers in Audioslave’s ‘Cochise’ video. Likewise, ‘Providence’ concertinas only to erupt into a drum-led freak-out. And, like the man said, poppy single ‘My Number’ is indeed stinky, funky and, well, pretty groovy.

But like Foals’ second album, it’s the brooding gems that really win out. Think of ‘Last Night’ as ‘Holy Fire’’s ‘Spanish Sahara’ – a blushing beauty that hikes to a soaring bluesy conclusion. ‘Milk & Black Spiders’ is album’s shining beacon, fluttering, elegant synths giving way to an orchestral rush. It’s Foals sounding the most arena-ready they ever have.

Almost all of ‘Holy Hire’ (it’s not all dynamite) represents another impressive step forward, in fact, giving off the impression that in the future, long after someone’s put a bullet in ‘Gangnam Style’, when X Factor is being shown on Dave and Dr Dre finally puts out ‘The Detox’, this band will be there fighting, winners of the long game.

Read all of our new album reviews here, in this month’s Loud And Quiet

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