Review: Foals - What Went Down
When you’re craving some indie rock to brood to, Foals are what you’re after
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“What Went Down” is an angst-ridden and epic collection of song which cements the band’s status as seasoned stadium rockers, with a little more intelligence than, say, Muse.
This record is not designed to accompany sunny road trips with the windows down or cheeky dances around the kitchen. It’s emotionally intense pretty much all of the way through, which does occasionally make for an exhausting listen, but it’s well worth the ride.
Front-man Yannis Philippakis casts himself as a tortured and reflective soul, walking the streets of foreign cities and calling his lovers in the early hours. He gets into fist fights, says goodbye in the rain and thinks about how his life is changing. This may sound slightly ridiculous, but the raw growl of Philippaskis’s vocals makes it sound truly authentic.
The songs never feel like they’re sleep walking through verse-chorus-middle-eight structures, but progress organically, each having their own groove which ebbs and flows throughout. The choruses are never truly anthemic, but always satisfying, and sometimes irresistible.
The stylish guitar melodies could easily have been stolen from bands like London Grammar or The xx, but here they’re recast in a more urgent and compelling context. At their most brash, the group sounds like a version of Imagine Dragons that understands the concept of subtlety. At their most moody, like on the instrumental sections of the title track, they become a beefed up version of Joy Division.
Whilst keeping up a fairly uniform sound throughout, the group could never be accused of being stuck in a rut. After the aggression of the title track comes the lo-fi and libidinous rock of ‘Snake Oil’; the slow-building, synth-led ‘Give It All’; and the gorgeous ‘London Thunder’, which manages to side-step the tired conventions of pop/rock ballads and offer up a tremendously catchy chorus to boot.
‘Albatross’ features existential angst accompanied by clattering percussion and tinkling piano that you can almost dance to. And what better way than a seven minute monster of a song, which ends with Philippakis screaming ‘what became of the things we once believed in?’ over chaotically swirling guitars and synths to round things off?
“What Went Down” has it all: it packs an emotional punch; blends dirty guitars with experimental electronic bleeping; and has a huge sound without succumbing to empty bluster. The songs may not be ingrained quite as deeply in the mind as a riff-heavy Arctic Monkeys number, but that doesn’t mean Foals aren’t a force to be reckoned with.
This record offers a level of passion and emotional drama that you’d struggle to find elsewhere, and brings a little more intelligence and subtlety to the table than your average Royal Blood anthem. So when you’re craving some indie rock to brood to, Foals are what you’re after.