Of Mice & Men
The Mo Club, Southampton, UK - 16/4
Written by: TL on 04/03/2013 23:03:28
When Rockfreaks.net first took notice of Foals, it was when their debut album "Antidotes" charmed PP with its writhing mass of bubbly, math-y guitar wizardry. When I personally first took notice was when the band enveloped Roskilde Festival's Arena stage in an incredibly immersive soundscape in 2011. We rarely see entirely eye to eye, our dear Editor-in-Chief and I, so it comes as no surprise that he has started losing interest in a band just as I've started to gain it, making for the handing over of the review of the band's third album "Holy Fire" to me.
If "Holy Fire" is your first encounter with Foals, your impression will likely be that they sound a bit like the ethereal, atmospheric stuff from the recentmost Maccabees' record "Given To The Wild" mixed with some jangly, danceable vibes from bands like Two Door Cinema Club or Bombay Bicycle Club (apparently Club bands are the new The bands, no?). The soundscape revolves around the guitarwork of frontman Yannis Philippakis and his fellow guitar player Jimmy Smith, with the lead riffs dancing off the frets like crystalline cobwebs, prickling the listener's ears like dust-rain on the skin. These leads work as a sparkler in the centre of a vast, starlit firmament, established by the heavily effect-laden second guitar, as well as the hypnotic rhythm from the bass and drums.
The make-or-break aspect of the band's sound is that, unlike most 'rock' bands, they don't work with vocals or song-progressions that seem excessively eager to seize the listener's attention - partly I think, because Philippakis is a guitarist first and a singer second, for although his Frightened Rabbit-ish, British vocals have considerable character, his melodies are seldom the focus of attention. Rather, the band take more of a dreamy, noise rock/pop character, letting their layered soundscape mesmerise and envelope you. This works the best I think, when coupled with an energetic dynamic, which is the case in especially the single "Inhaler", where a crawling, threatening beat drives the dream forward as it glides into louder and louder territory before culminating in a badass wall of distortion, that sounds like the kind of thing that'll shake your core if you hear it live. The following "My Number" is good too, recalling the style from "Antidotes" with its lighter, more upbeat style and its more light-hearted vocal melodies.
After that however, I think "Holy Fire" gradually starts to be less and less captivating. I commend the band for pushing their expression in slightly different directions on each song, but I've too often tried to follow them and felt my attention inevitably wander. And this annoys me, because I can't shake the feeling that if I could just hear this in a live environment, then the music would surround and enchant in a much more overwhelming manner. This is not a live environment however, these are just my headphones, and in here "Holy Fire" becomes more and more of a 'mood' record the further past "Inhaler" and "My Number" I get.
Download: Inhaler, My Number, Everytime
For The Fans Of: The Maccabees, Bombay Bicycle Club, Two Door Cinema Club
Release Date 11.02.2013