Foals have done it again, banger after banger; the Oxford quartet keep gifting us with a mix of dirty grooves, aggressive distortion and tender catharsis. Their long awaited follow up to Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part One shows that Foals are a band willing to take risks, making the mammoth task of creating a double album sound easy.
Part two picks up where part one ends, left in an apocalyptic landscape where the “birds are singing it’s the end of the world”. Red Desert kicks the album off with a sci-fi instrumental reminiscent of the Blade Runner soundtrack. With the doom of climate change hanging over us and the world at its end, how do we start again?
With an incredibly satisfying transition we are met with our answer. The Runner is a kick up the arse after the hopelessness and despair of part one. The verse’s crunchy riff is met with a soothing chorus as Phillipakkis proclaims his stoic mantra “If I fall down, then I know to keep on running”. If part one of the album is about falling, then part two is about getting up, dusting ourselves off and moving onto better things.
This same philosophy echoes throughout Wash Off where we return to a very familiar sound for Foals, reminiscent of their early math-rock influence. The verses are pieced together with a catchy hook and percussion-heavy grooves, culminating into an uplifting chorus of mesmerising “oohs” and cries to “go wash it off”. We shrug off the existential dread felt in part one and start looking for ways to keep going.
This leads us into Black Bull, a tune oozing with masculine aggression and bestial energy. As a track destined for moshing, Philipakkis cocky stage presence is emulated in the lyrics as he screams “I got to rip up the road. I got two nights in a row. Oh, we gon' put on a show”.
Next on the album, laying claim to being Foals’ biggest hip grinder, Like Lighting sees the band take a bluesy direction we have never heard from them before. A dirty Black Keys inspired riff is met with a sensual croon about self reinvention and overcoming personal battles to “be like lightning, be somebody new.'' Opening with celestial synths and percussion, Dreaming of foreshadows the albums climactic end with whimsical vocals in a dreamy half-time chorus. It may not be the most memorable song yet it works as a transition into the next half of the album, balancing the aggressively vibrant force of the first half with the more tender notes of the second.
Ikaria, named after the Greek island where the legend of Icarus was said to have fallen is perhaps a clever jab at humanity. With our burning of fossil fuels and increasing carbon emissions, like Icarus we are the ones flying too close to the sun. The impressionist inspired piano acts as an instrumental palette cleanser, leaving us with the feeling of floating through the waves off the Greek coast.
This leads us into 10,000 Feet, opening with a riff hugely inspired by early Radiohead. Themes of determination and resilience are again echoed throughout the lyrics “When I fall through the fire, into the void again. Ooh, I'll burn all the liars”, as our protagonist makes the best out of a bad situation “dancing” as he falls from 10,000 feet.
It wouldn’t be a Foals album without a tear jerker, with Into the Surf being this albums Spanish Sahara. With the ominous suggestion of someone not returning from sea, the influence of Greek tragedy is paramount. It is an intimate and arcane love song, a dying wish made between lovers that, if one dies away from home, the other will return them to their homeland. This is a fitting set up for the albums bombastic ending: the ten minute, cinematic Neptune. Opening with a medley of ethereal synths, it builds into a chorus of epic proportions, then finally mellows out into a three minute unedited instrumental jam. The song returns to its heavenly climax with cries of “I’m on my knees, begging, please. Come and take me away”, ending the album with a bittersweet comment on the mutability of life.
Foals’ double album has paid off. In a climate where guitar-based music is on a decline, Foals have shown that it isn’t over for rock music. Not only is their innovative sound resonant but the album will be remembered in years to come as expressing the twenty-first century zeitgeist of political and environmental anxiety. Yet, the crux of the album is an extremely personal one. We are taken on an emotional whirlwind through deeply tender ballads and rip-roaring aggression as Philippakis comes to terms with the scary reality of modern life. But throughout this, we are reminded that perhaps the biggest dystopias live within us.
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