Foals - Total Life Forever

Antonio Rowe 07/05/2010

Rating: 4.5/5

It feels like copious amounts of time have passed since the music industry witnessed the arrival of the Oxford-based quintet Foals, with their twitchy, wired, angular and almost nervous energy driven Indie/Art/Rock sound. With many a hype merchant cheerleading the band's 'new and refreshing' take on the art/rock indie sound, the band quickly became known for their diminutive and what some would deem pretentious front man (Yannis Philippakis), their impromptu gigs in bedrooms and student house parties across the U.K - and also let's not forget the decision to ditch indie cult producer Dave Sitek, the band's reasoning behind the decision being the fact that he made the album sound like it was 'recorded in the Grand Canyon'....

Months of hype and press coverage culminated with one of the most anticipated releases of 2008, their debut Antidotes. The album not only achieved commercial success but also managed to live up and somewhat exceed the expectations of critics with most reviews varying from favourable to highly positive. Here at GIITTV we applauded Foals for their 'infectious electro melodies, toe-tapping drum beats and stabby, raw guitar riffs' which resulted in them achieving 4th place in our best albums of 2008 poll.

So after a two-year hiatus and a rather sneaky transition to major label Warner Bros, Foals are back with their sophomore effort Total Life Forever which without a shadow of a doubt is Foals' 'coming of age' album. This new long player is split into two segments: the first half packed with math-rock staccato riff tunes that display Foals' talent for writing monstrous pop hooks like the one present in the destined to be hit 'Miami' or the sing-along charm of title track 'Total Life Forever'. And the latter half bringing to light Foals' experimental side with offset vocal reverbs, fuzzy baselines, glacial vocal harmonies and stuttering instrumentals all seen in the come-down solemn track 'After-Glow' and dreamy shoe-gazey pop '2 Trees'.

Lyrically Total Life Forever is less cryptic and more emotionally derived than its predecessor with reoccurring themes; isolation, anxiety and self doubt. All the themes are illustrated beautifully but are at their cathartic paramount in the sparsely produced, jaunty sonic-strobe and vulnerable near 7 minute epic 'Spanish Sahara'.

"Leave the horror here
Forget the horror here
forget the horror here,

I'm the fury in your head
I'm the fury in your bed
I'm the ghost in the back of your head"

This is brilliantly complimented with Yannis' new and also more seasoned approach to vocal styles; the animalistic angst propelled yelps that plastered Antidotes are now replaced by a refreshing melancholy yet soulful falsetto.

Because of this overall more cultivated approach the Foals have taken to their sound, it's not possible to label any of the tracks as 'filler', although as with all albums some tracks are better than others and there are definitely some standout tracks present in Total Life Forever, these being; the aforementioned 'Miami', 'Total Life Forever' and newly released irresistible single 'This Orient'.

But it's album closer 'What Remains' that's the cream of the crop with the possibility that it could be the best thing to come out of Foals' existence with its taut groove melody that harks back to the Rumours era Fleetwood Mac, and marching rhythmic percussion crescendo resulting in both a momentous and atmospheric finale meaning it's the perfect track to finish Foals stunning sophomore effort. Where at times I found Antidotes to be quite one dimensional in its sonancy, Total Life Forever is a mature exploration and more importantly an evolution in Foals' already irresistible angular math rock genre.

Release date: 10/05/2010