Rewind five years to Foals’ debut album Antidotes, and you have a band barely recognisable, both sonically and in terms of aspirations, to the untamed monster that has been unleashed in 2013.
Buzz and hype, along with the awkward and uncomfortable math-rock tag that they clearly never really wanted, followed the band wherever they went. They were the next step up from the, now rather embarrassing, Nu-Rave scene, offering kids something new to jaunt along to in now defunct indie discos.
However, Foals have never been a band to roll over and pander to the needs of the industry they’re in. Hummer, an already fan favourite was oh so controversially left off Antidotes, a sign that this band were going to do things their way, and their way only.
Up next came Total Life Forever, which offered a huge expansion on their sound and a slight pretentiousness to frontman Yannis’ lyrics. Foals had gone left-field, transforming from dance-rock upstarts to one of the most important and unique British bands of the 21st century. A Mercury Prize nomination duly followed.
So, what to expect from third album, Holy Fire? Well, Inhaler and My Number, both released prior to the album, offered intriguing glimpses into the direction the band had been heading.
Inhaler starts off in a very typical Foals way, staccato guitar and incredibly groovy basslines, Yannis’ inimitable voice oozing elegantly over the music. One minute in and things start to kick off in a serious way. “So can you not go away? Just for one day?” roars a desperate Yannis before the band explode into a swampy Rage Against The Machine riff, thrusting off any of lingering sand that might have been remaining from Spanish Sahara.
This beefed up sound should come as no surprise considering Alan Moulder (My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and the Mary Chain) and Flood (Smashing Pumpkins, Nick Cave, PJ Harvey) were on producing duties. The decision to specifically recruit these two shows a craving for the grandiose from the Oxford group, a yearning to have as forcible an impact with this album as possible.
My Number, with its incredibly tropical beat and infectiously slinky groove provides assurances that the band haven’t gone all riff crazy. It’s a miserable tale of a broken relationship masqueraded behind all the bounciness and giddiness. It also signifies a more stripped back effort from Yannis, who, with lyrics about your ex no longer possessing your mobile number, sings about real things that real people can relate to. He’s also got far more substance to his vocals, offering a gripping mixture of gentle coos and ferocious roars throughout the album.
Late Night is a magnificent slow burner that erupts rewardingly as it explodes towards its death. Milk and Black Spiders is of similar ilk, and both are sure to be standout, spine-tingling moments for when the band take to the road.
Stepson and Moon are both intricately delicate affairs, offering a timely wind-down towards the end of the album after the sonic assault the band throw at you beforehand.
There’s a genuine sense of progression and a stamp of maturity on Holy Fire, and it almost feels as though the band are, musically, exactly where they want to be right now. The sound has been ramped up considerably, thrusting the band towards arenas that they will undoubtedly dominate, hopefully in place of the increasingly cringe worthy Kings of Leon, Muse et al.
Yet there’s still that classic Foals groove, the bouncy danceability that has manifested itself in each one of their vastly unique and consecutively improving albums.
If the upward arc of Foals’ career is anything to go by, the future of this band is very, very bright.