In 2015 Foals released their much anticipated fourth recording, “What Went Down”. That album could be best described as a collection of aggressive intense rock tunes that have come to define Foals’ sound. In January of this year, the band announced they would soon be releasing not one but two albums in the following months. On March 8th their first slice of prolific creation will arrive, “Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost” Part 1. The band has described the two forthcoming albums as companion pieces that can both jigsaw together or operate independently from each other. Additionally, the new release is the first reveal of the pared-down band line up.
The band has gone from a quintet to a quartet due to bassist and original member Walter Gervers amicable departing Foals. Gervers departure has forced the band to reshuffle bass assignments for the record and to rethink things overall. The resulting album displays another facet of Foals character moving away from the mammoth riffs of “What Went Down” and into a more electronic and heavy groove. Captured in both the lyrics and sound is the frustration the band members feel at not being able to change any of the negatives that are looming out in our world.
After Foals completed their tour for “What Went Down” they went on a self-enforced break to get, as they described it, domestic and smaller. The newly reformatted band line up of vocalist/guitarist Yannis Philippakis, along with Jack Bevan on drums and percussion, Jimmy Smith on guitars and Edwin Congreave on keyboards would re-enter the studio in 2016. Foals would develop and self produce the album over an 18 month period. On the recording, Philippakis and Congreave would share bass duties. The time away from the recording studio led to a proliferation of new material. Foals would come to realize they were unwilling to table any of the new songs. The idea of a two album release gained in popularity as it allowed greater flexibility in the number of songs they could release.
“Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost” PT 1 begins with an atmospheric selection, “Moonlight” which harkens back to the sonics on Foals’ second album, “Total Life Forever”, but is also reminiscent of the grouping of the songs “Prelude/Inhaler” on “Holy Fire”. This song is easily identifiable as Foals sonics loaded with shimmering guitars and Yannis’ lionesque vocals. The track is sunlit and dreamy providing a contrast with the start off to “Exits”. This pugnacious stutter beat funk track is all about escape. “Exits” asks how we right a world going wrong, can we find the exits from the current situation or do any exits actually exist. A distinctive keyboard that is signature Foals enables the development of a midtempo glittering dirge that mourns our predicament in a brutal and unfair world.
There is an unceasing fierceness evidenced on “White Onions” which is more in line with the feeling of “What Went Down”. The topic again is escape and how to survive. This theme unreels over a distilled energy that displays Yannis in his best fighting stance. There is no surrender only continued confrontation, as he roars, “I fight for air”. This track is probably my overall favourite.
From the menacing intensity of “White Onions,” the recording moves on to “In Degrees” a breakup track loaded with glitchy jumpy synths that merge into a driving dance beat. This is going to be a huge hit in concert. The selection identifies that more often than not people gradually slide away from each other by degrees rather than separating over anyone great cataclysmic event. The tracks thus far bare witness to why Foals is still operational when so many of their musical contemporaries have ceased to be. Foals uniquely on each of their recordings are able to come at the listener from a different angle yet be easily identifiable and the latest release is no exception.
“Syrups” blends together a wonky pulled around intro, a Trip-hop drum and a throbbing bass lead. That bass is almost as sticky sweet as the title of the song, it captures the listener. Overall there is a psychedelic feeling that accompanies the lyrics which describe a dystopian nightmare where the Earth shakes off mankind like so many fleas. “On the Luna” is another song that aims for the fences and is quintessential Foals. It is equal parts barely contained energy, Math Rock, their distinctive guitars and Yannis selling the vocals like his life depends on it. The song draws up images of mankind dancing on the edge, like a carefree toddler never knowing how dangerous their surroundings have become. Did I mention there is cowbell in the intro, and you can never have too much cowbell!
“Café D’ Athens” will thrill longtime fans of the band as it harkens back to “Antidotes” with a percussion-driven track filled with Marimbas and Yannis’ falsetto. There is a disembodied feel to this sinuous track that sticks with the listener. “Surf Pt 1” is much like “Moonlight” acting as an amuse bouche setting up the listener for the last two tracks with its ghostly haunting sonics. The quasi-ballad “Sunday” channels a serious R&B vibe. The song builds like a thunderhead with the drama and intensity growing exponentially as the track unfolds. Yannis identifies the callousness we all display when faced with chronic unsolvable problems. He warns that things will not end well for mankind if we don’t buy in at some point and demand change. The song has a grandiloquence that few bands besides Foals can pull off. It is a giant of a selection.
The final track “I’m Done with the World & (it is Done with Me”) is a departure for the band. The sonics are a simple piano. In the past Foals has almost always answered adversity with a bang here they answer with a whimper. The song is forlorn, troubled, and solemn. It is almost heartbreaking to encounter the narrator in the song basically shrug his shoulders with resignation and surrendering to the inevitable. The attitude of “I’m a reasonable man get off my case” pervades the piece. The song holds massive emotional power.
Foals in the past have differentiated themselves from the rest of the musical pack not exactly because of what they are saying as much as how they say it. The band has always been their most impressive when they let it rip. Foals have always been the masters of a certain brand of pugnacious intensity; on “Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost” Pt 1 they slightly mute the pugnacity but never the intensity. There is more nuance and clarity with the new release making things more personal.
“Everything Not Saved will Be Lost” Pt 1 puts a lot more emphasis on what they are saying but remembers to include all the sonic reasons they are beloved by fans. In a short 43 mins of play, they touch on many fears and worries yet offer the hope that the future is not written in stone and we can change what is to come if we have the force of will. Part 1 of “Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost” feels like it will resonate even more when Part 2, which is expected in the autumn, is released. However, for now, the new release can completely stand alone as another engaging entry into the works of Foals.