Foals’ “Holy Fire” a Soundtrack for Squandered Potential

Foals

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Foals
Holy Fire
Transgressive Records

The British indie quintet Foals plays what’s commonly referred to as math rock: experimental, technically dazzling, rhythmically complex. The band made a name for itself in the UK with a couple of dazzling singles, and unlike most British buzzbands, successfully made the crossover to the US with Antidotes in 2008, followed by 2010’s Total Life Forever. (The title refers to Ray Kurzweil’s singularity concept; frontman Yannis Phillippakis is allegedly a futurist.) but Foals’ new album, Holy Fire, ?produced by Smashing Pumpkins producers Flood and Alan Moulder and out this week, suggests that the band has lost none of the taste for grandiosity that featured heavily on—and often detracted from—its previous albums.

“Prelude,” the opener, is classic Foals: crisp, moderately catchy, slightly cold, privileging instrumentals over vocals. “Inhaler” takes that vibe and makes it heavier, adding full-throated wailing and an aggressively bombastic guitar riff. Much of the album follows in the same vein: echoing vocals, clean and distinct guitar lines, tightly complicated drumbeats, and expansively grand backdrops.

But energy and distinctive melodies are in short supply. On “Bad Habit,” Foals sentimental grandeur tips from stirring to smothering. The lethargic “Stepson,” aims for poignant, but lands on dull. The stripped down “Moon” works better, as far as the slow stuff goes, focusing simply on Philippakis’ plaintive voice against a chiming background. It all makes for an album that sounds good, but doesn’t particularly stick with you—potential glimmers consistently, but only occasionally shines through.

When it does, though, it blazes. The infectious, upbeat tune “My Number” is without a doubt the album’s best track, putting Foals’ virtues to use in service of a tightly plotted, crisply executed, irresistibly danceable pop song, complete with background “oohs,” a twinkling bridge, and perfectly devastating pop couplets: “You don’t have my number/And we don’t need each other now.” “Everytime” is another highlight, combining Phillippakis’ deep voice with a strong, dark bassline and driving beat in a song that sounds remarkably like a dance-funk version of Fleet Foxes. It’s hard not to feel that Foals is missing its true calling by sticking to proggy rock ballads and making records that sound, in the band’s words, “like the dream of an eagle dying,” when it might instead embrace its potential, and be a terrific indie-pop outfit. 

Here’s “Inhaler.”

Click here for more music coverage from Mother Jones.

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate