Posts Tagged ‘antidotes’

Foals at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

October 2, 2010

27 September 2010

UK indie rockers, Foals, returned to Lee’s Palace on Monday in support of their sophomore release Total Life Forever and played to a sold out crowd. The band got off to a moody start with a somewhat choppy version of “Miami”, as it seemed to take frontman Yannis Philipakkis a couple tracks to get into the mood of the set. Also, guitarist Jimmy Smith suffered from constant technical difficulties with his guitar, which halted the momentum of the show on quite a few occasions. Still, Foals blasted through tracks off of Total Life Forever and Antidotes to the crowd’s delight. The crowd danced and screamed and sang along, reaching frenzy during the kick in “Spanish Sahara”.

I thought it was a good show, but wasn’t as impressed as I was after their first stop at Lee’s in the spring of 2008. And I’ll tell you why: firstly, they did not play “Black Gold”, which is my favourite song off of their new album, and arguably the strongest song they have written to date. Secondly, I found the show to go completely against everything the band has claimed they have become (more mature, dynamic, and understated) since the release of Antidotes. At this show, Yannis acted like a bit of a rockstar, kicking over mic stands and beer bottles, running into the crowd with his “wireless” guitar, jumping on the bar and (accidentally) smashing a light. Sure, it’s all good showmanship, but there was something in his overall manner and attitude that took away from the authenticity of it all. To me, it seemed like he would’ve rather been somewhere else. The rest of the band fulfilled their duties well, bass and drums as tight as ever, and keyboard dude still just as superfluous.

Lastly, and perhaps this is what irked me the most, was that instead of nurturing this new maturity and dynamism on stage, their live show was overly loud, prone to drawn-out jams, and at times down right sloppy. I had expected their live performance would have gotten tighter and stronger since their first trip across the pond, but instead they relied on older material and amplifier volume to fill in the blanks and in the end it fell flat. Nevertheless, Total Life Forever will still be up there on my end of year list and it was a good show, but Foals still have some growing up to do.

Peace.

Foals – Total Life Forever

May 16, 2010

UK scenesters, Foals, return this spring with Total Life Forever, the follow-up to their 2008 debut Antidotes. When I first heard the pre-released singles, I was at my friend Stew’s house and we were having a few drinks before going out somewhere. He played “Spanish Sahara” for me, and I became immediately irate, screaming: “Coldplay! Coldplay! No!” and then I smashed a beer bottle on his living room floor. Stew told me to relax and then played the second single “This Orient” for me. I leapt from the couch, punched Stew in the face, screamed “Bloc Party! Bloc Party! God, no!” and then promptly passed out on the floor in disappointment. When I came to, it all seemed like a bad dream. Foals is a band I hold in high regard, and I anticipated their new release to be a different beast entirely. Why would a band with so much raw energy and post-rock infectiousness, turn to seemingly less dynamic songwriting and more obvious influences?

Ahh, the curse of the sophomore album. Before beginning this review I listened to every song Foals have released to date, and I noticed a steady shift and softening of their sound from their earliest EP’s, Hummer and Try This On Your Piano, to Total Life Forever. And so, it does in fact seem that this ‘softer’ version of the young band is a natural progression, slowly developing over the last four years. However, at the same time, I can’t help but feel it all seems a bit calculated — an attempt to widen their fan base, a desire to get BIG, and not just indie rock big, but (ahem) Coldplay big. There is a definite Parachutes-era Coldplay feel to this album. And this clever calculatedness can be seen all the way down to the album cover, which evokes one of the biggest albums of the last twenty years (I’ll let you guess which one).

Yet, although I was initially disappointed with the early singles, upon listening to them within the context of the entire album, I discovered that Total Life Forever is solid, and the band’s progression, whether calculated or not, has them writing their finest songs to date.

After the release of Antidotes, the band began immediately dismissing it as “flawed” and not a fair representation of their overall aesthetic. For me, I found their debut a great album, with a tight rhythm section, and excellent kicks and hooks. However, critical reception for the album was mixed, and I can’t help but think this may be one reason for their public dismissal of Antidotes, and their desire to open up their music to a larger audience. I mean, we have a group of guys who dropped out of Oxford University to become rock stars, and perhaps when Antidotes didn’t blow up the way they had hoped, they decided they had to go bigger, friendlier, with less weird time changes and guitar tapping chord progressions . . . we gotta prove to our friends and family that dropping out of college really was the right decision. Believe me Mum, we’re still gonna make it!

I feel like I had to note this, but with that said, the songs on Total Life Forever are very well written, emotional, and have great guitar work and changes. The sound is softened from their earlier releases, but somehow because of this, the album packs more of a punch. The first four tracks start the album off at a great pace, mixing moments reminiscent of Talking Heads with the earlier Foals sound to great effect. Title track “Total Life Forever”, surprisingly lifts its opening lyrics from “Into Your Arms” by The Lemonheads, as if they’re trying to rewrite the 90’s ballad for the next generation, giving it a funkier punch and vibe.

“Black Gold”, on the other hand, stands out as truly their own, and features an amazing change halfway through the song, with a great build-up and kick, coupled with Yannis Philippakis singing: “Now that spring is finally here / in your hollow heart, your hollow heart!” The song totally works and is a perfect example of their new found “maturity” when it comes to composition. After “Black Gold”, the album slows down with the 7-minute “Spanish Sahara”, and as I said earlier, the quiet track works well as a midpoint within the album. Highlights on the flipside are “Alabaster” and “2 Trees”, which are slow burners that resonate well, and recall to mind the best moments of Coldplay’s debut, and quieter Bloc Party tracks, while at the same time, still sound very much like Foals — just at a clipped pace.

In the end, I dig Total Life Forever. I have returned to it many times, and find it packs an emotional punch, while still retaining the inherent groove of a good rock album. Although, it is not where I expected their sound to go, I still hope it gains them the fan base they seem to want so badly, but also hope in the end, that they’re still doing it all for one thing: the music.

Peace.