Released 28th August
Foals have been kicking around for a while now, showcasing a sound that, for the last few years, has seamlessly blended pop sensibilities with a modern interpretation of the indie rock template. With a number of great songs under their belt such as Inhaler and Spanish Sahara, it felt like time for Foals to shake things up and drop their ‘big idea,’ album, their Sgt. Pepper, their Kid A.
But nothing on What Went Down, not one single track, delivers anything more than a fleeting attempt to re-energize the same instrumental arrangement the band have stuck with throughout most of their career.
Much of this album feels recycled, re-using ideas which lack distinction not just from each other, but from the band’s previous tracks. The melody of ‘Give It All’, for example, sounds eerily similar to that of ‘My Number’. When the band isn’t re-hashing old ideas, they’re delivering unbearably awkward and cliched lyrics, most memorable on the track ‘London Thunder’ where Yannis delivers the line “Lost my mind in San Francisco… Worn out disco”.
Though the first two songs showcase a great build and tension, the album peaks early, and even the better cuts such as ‘Mountain At My Gates’ lack any distinct, memorable qualities that set them apart. There’s a satisfying build to much of the tracklist, a good bubbling sense of disquiet, but no hook, riff or melodic phrase from any of them cling to the mind. Even the production feels sterile, everything’s bright and loud and clean, but not interesting or lively. It’s so lacking in substance that it’s actually difficult to think of anything more to say about it.
What Went Down does little more than exhibit a vaguely distinct sound. Nothing grabs you, nothing thrilling takes place, and nothing dares to shake up the formulaic drudgery of these songs. It attempts to be urgent and brooding but falls short; it’s not exciting enough to intently listen too, but also not mellow enough to have on as background music. This album is the musical equivalent of a bath full of lukewarm water; it’ll get you clean, but you’re not going to enjoy it as much as if the contents of the bathtub were hot. Despite big talk, Foals still feel like a band in their infancy.
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