posted on May 02, 2008 06:32
A review of the album 'Antidotes' by Foals
Review Snapshot: With sweeping orchestral sounds and muted harmonics reminiscent of Battles, Foals deploy sombre effects blistering into full blown melody meat feasts. What a shame they can't sing.
The Cluas Verdict? 6.5 out of 10
I am a victim of the hype machine. It just sucks me in. Like the TV programme Skins, with its false promise of entertainment, and its artificially crafted 'indie' image. Yet at times it grips me, despite how much I loathe Skins, the NME and the all-style-no-substance bands they promote. This time however both TV programme and magazine have tapped into a band that is both stylish and talented - Foals.
Foals' debut album 'Antidotes' belts out climactic track after track of perky harmonic melodies combined with dark ruddy distortion; a sound that I'm guessing must be heard live to absorb the intensity of the crescendos.
The Oxford indie band dubs its album 'psychedelic pop.' I disagree. The effect sounds more like the math rock of Mogwai or 65 Days of Static, speeded up and dipped into the syncopated harmonic sherbet of Battles. However their repetitive lyrics and schoolboyish shouting makes you wonder- what would the album be like if they didn't sing? Because really, they can't. Sing, that is. Then you realise that without lyrics the album would be a top post-rock dance affair filled to the gills with beautiful bell tones, sustained brassy notes, rough muted chords and nerdishly perfect effects.
The album begins with its best track, 'The French Open'. Discordant harmonies and a brass intro that feels like a funeral backing track (without the bagpipes) leads into wayward smatterings of guitar riffs and builds up to a jittery, pulsing force against an orchestral cocktail of harmonies and confusion.
The band's single 'Cassius' stands out on the album too, but the voices on this track are too much to the foreground - the music speaks for itself; it doesn't need lyrics to speak for it too. Danceable and loveable, 'Cassius' develops in places towards dark and haunting scratchy guitars and a build-up on the drums. It pretends to be all sweetness and light but then begins to evoke more of an ironic tone, petering out with an afterthought of improvised brass.
Remember that haunting remix of Radiohead's 'Morning Bell'? Foals' next single for release, 'Red Socks Pugie', begins with similarly eerie computerised effects that filter into twisting terrifying noises, working their way into your ears, filling up your soul with sound.
The echoing voices on 'Electric Bloom' sound too stilted and grit against the skull with a kind of football style chant until the words become too much and you find yourself wishing the track could just stand alone without the band's harsh voices booming over it.
'Heavy Water' drags out its drums against harmonic scales that mimic the pitter-patter of rain, descending into a stormy heavy tune that feels like a cold November evening. Another stand out track is 'Big Big Love,' whose percussion intro sounds suspiciously similar to 'Race:In' by Battles.
The entire album filters smoothly from track to track, each one building upon the instruments that have gone before, but towards the end the echoey and shouting voices are just a bit too much to handle.
Foals' influences are very obvious, with sprays of distortion and over-used harmonics but their nerd effects and soft hints of ska stamp some originality on the album. Foals have a while to go to develop their own true sound.
And hopefully, on their next album, they'll learn to keep the vocals down.
To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.