Foals | Holy Fire

Transgressive (2013)
By RYAN REED  |  February 11, 2013
3.0 3.0 Stars


Most hip new bands save their experimental, reactionary "fuck you" album for when they have something to rebel against. Foals got theirs out of the way early: 2008's Antidotes was a detached, often robotic stew of math-rock rhythms and Afrobeat electric guitar pointillism, with Yannis Philippakis snarling detached art-school nonsense in the crevices. The British press portrayed the band as indie-rock's new hipster Bad Boys (cemented for the ages when they rejected a reverb-heavy mix from it-producer Dave Sitek). Though Foals showed signs of depth and maturity on 2010's Total Life Forever, they've made their biggest leap on Holy Fire, embracing the soulfulness and passion lurking beneath their intricate sonics. "I'm pale and coy, a mama's boy," Philippakis croons on lead single "Inhaler," his band churning up a metallic art-rock ruckus, "I make believe/I shimmy-shake, I wake and bake." It's a charming bit of lyrical playfulness, but more important is how Philippakis sings: raw, explosive sensuality, every syllable elongated. It's a representative moment on an album both accessible and humane. Most of the guitars still do that prickly math-rock thing, overlapping in curlicue precision — but they're used as exclamation points, decorating the euphoric psychedelics of "Bad Habit" and the pulsating grooves of "Out of the Woods." Drummer Jack Bevan remains the band's not-so-secret weapon, leading the charge from the rear with his delirious hi-hat flurries ("Inhaler") and polyrhythmic flair ("Everytime"), yet grounding the album with elemental percussive muscle. Legendary production duo Flood and Alan Moulder wave their wand throughout, pushing the songs to U2-levels of spacey grandeur. But even at their most expansive, Foals are digging into more primal territory. The funkiness, the headiness, the playfulness — it comes together on "My Number," a dizzy, disillusioned indie-funk anthem with a four-on-the-floor stomp and trebly guitars that unzip like a fine pair of leather pants. Foals haven't lost their math-rock edge; they've infused it with fun.


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