Foals’ two-night return to DC was so electric that lead singer/guitarist Yannis Philippakis jumped off the second floor balcony into the crowd. If that’s not rock and roll, what is?
Oxford, England’s Foals have transformed over the course of the last decade, starting off with angular math rock on their 2008 debut album Antidotes, but slowly shedding the more esoteric parts of their initial sound over the course of the next two albums to take on a more streamlined, arena-friendly sound. While for many bands this kind of transition would have been a death-knell for credibility, Foals have seemed to grow into it naturally and without compromise. 2010’s Total Life Forever saw the beginning of the transition, shedding much of the raw dance-punk of their debut for a more subdued, post-punk style. 2013’s Holy Fire took that sound and extended it, adding the bombast and expansiveness of a band looking to fill the air in much larger spaces. With this year’s What Went Down, the band has fully matured into their sound, displaying a confidence which has brought back some of the edge of their earlier days while still forging ahead. On Wednesday evening, the band brought their tour for this latest album to DC, for a sold-out show at the Lincoln Theatre.
SOUNDS LIKE: Minus The Bear, Klaxons, Friendly Fires, Two Door Cinema Club
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: These Brits head to the major leagues for their upcoming third album
It's possible that the men of Foals are the most intricate players of their instruments. They blew me away at Lollapalooza in 2007, performing with much precision and beyond finely tuned. Their songs blur the line of mathematical and scientific; their guitar playing impeccable and blending everything together to make such perfect songs must be due to sound chemical compound. Their 2010 album, Total Life Forever, blew away expectations as they blended ambience with ambivalence. One would assume they'd keep going down this path, but will they in the end?
Their new album is called Holy Fire, and it should probably be treated as an entity we bow down before it. Their new single "Inhaler" won't take your breath away as much as it will make your heart explode. Its industrial chorus, provided by the production skills of the legendary Flood and Alan Moulder, finds lead singer Yannis Philippakis screaming so loud over the crunching guitars to the point we he and the band border sounding like new labelmates Deftones. This is where it should be noted they've left the comfort of indie slugger Sub Pop, traveled down coast and signed up with Warner Bros. And if you're worried they've left their 2+2=Guitar Perfection equation for dead, fear not. The second it starts you'll be greeted by a melody that will wrap around your brain stem for days.
Holy Fire is out February 12 via Warner Bros.
The world has its beautiful people. We’re all familiar with them. Their perfect faces adorn magazine covers, movie posters, and power-pop stages. Perfect – and perfectly interchangeable. And then, there are those with the kind of beauty we might never have noticed had it not, say, been scooped up and gifted to us by a Joss Whedon … or appeared to us on a stark stage, adorned only by their sound and their fury. Like Foals at the 9:30 on Friday night.
It’s not that Foals’ recordings aren’t fantastic. They are. They inspired us to purchase our tickets well in advance of the evening’s eventual sell-out. But the recordings, though wonderful, don’t begin to do justice to this band’s true power. On the album, you hear influences, both direct and indirect. Robert Fripp. Talking Heads. A melding of Britain’s old punk and Goth scenes, running straight up from “Ians” Curtis and McCulloch, through Robert Smith, with a bit of a detour through the Islands (at night) and a stop at a dance club or two for good measure. Live, though, the contours of these influences fade. Like the five men who comprise Foals, seemingly dispirit parts become, when combined on stage, a transcendent whole. This transformation is effected, in part, by some mad musical skills, a few powerful personas, and a healthy dose unabashed passion. (Talented drummer Jack Bevan continually leapt from his seat while playing like a drop of water hitting hot oil in a frying pan.) But there’s also alchemy at work here...