Foals are a big part of the One A Day collective consciousness. We’ve been repping them ever since their explosive math-rock debut, Antidotes, was detonated on dancefloors and in bedrooms across the globe. Their sophomore effort, Total Life Forever, surprised everyone by being an intelligent rock album that even spoke to idiots, buoyed by the absolute stunner of a seven-minute opus that was ‘Spanish Sahara.’ If this sounds like a glorified album review for Pitchfork, where a band’s history gets covered before you get on with it, all well and good. Foals are a band who deserve to have their past recognised. They’ve been forcing everyone else in their scene outside of Bloc Party to step up and show their rhythmic and melodic chops. And by the looks of the first few singles that have dropped from forthcoming Potentially Career-Ending Album Number Three, they don’t seem to be getting any more tired.
The biggest criticism you’ll ever hear levelled at Foals is that the Oxford quintet are really excellent at any number of things, and they often try and throw at least sixteen of them into every song. This was especially true of their underground breakout hits, ‘Hummer’ and ‘Mathletics’, which were literally exercises in music-nerd freakouts; seeing how fast and how complicated one could play before a listener felt sick or collapsed into rapture. Slowly but surely they realised that the guy who was filling in for their original singer, little ball of fury that was Yannis Philappakis, could actually, you know, sing. So the rest of these geeks thought it might not be a bad idea to put some melodies where those syncopated figures were, and start from the top down rather than using them as a bleating afterthought. This brings us to ‘My Number’, perhaps the most straight-ahead, no bullshit rock song Foals have ever written that still manages to sound exactly like them, which means everything ever created after Bret Easton Ellis’ Glamorama.
There’s a surprising new tendency with bands in the two thousand and tweens to go back and pilfer the eighties in a completely different way than they did the first time when they discovered synths and fluoro (again.) What we’re talking about here is guitars set to reverb across the night forever, sing-a-long ‘oohs’ and flecks of Afrobeat in the vein of Paul Simon and Fela Kuti juxtaposed against monster riffs. ‘My Number’ ticks pretty much all of these boxes. The scraped clean tones of the rhythm guitar even chug in time to Yannis’ vocals rather than fighting against them for what must be the first time ever. The easter eggs for those of us who are big on the flash are all still there, from the hi-hat flourishes and lightning-fast tom rolls of prodigy Jack Bevan to the interplay of lead trebly guitar lines between Yannis and foil Jimmy Smith. And yet somehow, Foals have managed to take the best of the era of stadium ballads, transpose it onto post-modern glitch rock and come out the other side without a hopeless mess. I have no doubt that any other band this young even attempting to pull off this balancing act would surely collapse into a heap of time signatures and off-beats and distortion. Like a well-oiled machine, every part of Foals is moving in perfect order and symmetry. We’re just the lucky ones who get to take it for a spin.
Foals – ‘My Number’