This ‘Foals’ article was written by Lucas Jones, a GIGsoup contributor
From the intricate math rock guitar and horn bombast of Antidotes to the unassuming emotional Total Life Forever and the melodic Holy Fire, Foals are a band that haven’t rested on their laurels like many of their musical peers of their era. They have evolved and changed their sound with each of their albums and What Went Down is no different.
The brutal and aggressive lead single “What Went Down” is a frantic opening that yells and screams like a beast trying to release itself; but it shouldn’t lull you into thinking this is a new heavier direction from Foals. It is not. The intricacies and dance-rock grooves that have become synonymous with Foals still anchor the album, but it is not a lucid body of work and this is not a bad thing.
The strength of this album is its dynamism. What Went Down transcends different genres toying with different emotions and subjects. “Give It All” chronicles an urban love story, the simple and evocative nature of the song is the most reflective that Foals have been.
Despite maturing and transitioning into festival headliners, Foals haven’t forgotten their math-rock origins; “Birch Tree” complete with captivating riffs, grooves its way to a satisfying conclusion.
If “Birch Tree” alludes to the past, “Snake Oil” and “Night Swimmers” allude to a new direction, a more grown up, rounded rock sound. Forming the spine of the album, both songs feature a thumping rhythmic drumbeat that is complemented by distorted and fuzzy guitars, but neither matches the urgency of “What Went Down”.
Acting as a close cousin to “Spanish Sahara”, “London Thunder” is sublime and is the finest Foals have been. Sparse and atmospheric, minimal percussion pulsates throughout and is surely a contender for song of the year. Albatross is almost cinematic in nature, the off-kilter instrumentals almost drown out Yannis’s voice but it builds up to a searing crescendo.
While What Went Down might not be a boundary-pushing record, it brings Foals one-step closer to the masterpiece that they surely have in them. Foals have cemented themselves as one of the best British bands around with a Glastonbury headline slot surely on the horizon.