Foals – What Went Down
Fourth album showcases the band’s musical process and intelligent sound
Of the plethora of spotty-faced indie bands that swarmed in the genre’s mid-noughties boom, few have been able to progress from the paint-by-numbers riffs, chantable lyrics and teenage angst that characterised the period. The term ‘landfill indie’ became a prevalent one, and any band that wished to stand out from the very busy crowd had to evolve to survive. Other than a few stragglers (see the Cribs / Kaiser Chiefs et al), it was only really the Arctic Monkeys, The Maccabees and Foals that made the necessary modifications, both adopting new but different types of lyrical sophistication and a grander, more intelligent sound.
For their last two full-length releases, Foals have consistently pushed forward in to the unknown, honing an increasingly cinematic sound with each new record. What Went Down feels like the Oxford five-piece have reached that place on the horizon that we can constantly hear them aiming for on previous albums. The journey that Foals have been on is encapsulated in ‘A Knife in the Ocean’, where the lyric ‘what became of the things I once believed?’ seems to serve as a point of reflection among swelling synths and guitar lines. The awareness of their own musical process has meant that all the skills learned on the way – the cascading guitar riffs, philosophical lyrics and quiet introspective lulls, are all on shining display on opener ‘What Went Down’.
This sense of arrival poses a question one might never have associated with Foals. For a band that has rightfully prided itself on innovation with each release, where can they go from here? Each and every addition to the Foals discography since 2008’s Antidotes has tried and tested new waters, yet this exploration has led them directly to this point. What Went Down is Foals’ finest moment, and it’s hard to see how it can get any better.
Out now, on Transgressive.