Foals – Holy Fire
Hailing from Oxford, England, indie rock group Foals has just released their third album, Holy Fire, on Transgressive Records. Though a primarily guitar-based sound, Holy Fire takes advantage of sonic variety, both within different sections of the same song as well as across the album as a whole. Frequently implementing rhythmically-driven leads over distorted riffs, plucked highs, and reverb-soaked vocals, Holy Fire oozes melancholy rock and dreaminess in perfect unity.
Founder, guitarist, and lead vocalist Yannis Philippakis exudes a strong presence throughout, from the heavily layered vocals on “Everytime” to the bare-bones but still full-bodied sound of “Late Night,” resonant of the likes of Matt Berninger (The National), and Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio). Despondent yet punk, Philippakis touches on themes of human weakness: “I’m a bad habit, hope that I change” (“Bad Habit”) and strength: “We don’t need the city / the creed or the culture now” (“My Number”). Contrasting vocal allegories continue: “I hoped that you were somebody / someone I could count / to pull me to my feet again, (“Last Night”) and “I know it’ll be okay / come this way,” (“Everytime”). While upon a first listen, such themes appear to be in contradiction, with further consideration it seems that Holy Fire’s anthem can be summarized: we’re human, we make mistakes–and that’s okay.
Drummer Jack Bevan takes a firm stance on tracks like “Inhaler” and “My Number,” laying down locked-in one-two beats that drive the sound and keep a steady, traditional rock groove. Elsewhere, such as with “Stepson,” Bevan exhibits a more experimental sound, the likes of the percussion on Thom Yorke’s Eraser, which provides an enjoyable juxtaposition to that rock sound as well as a pleasant backtrack to Philippakis’ vocal blues. Furthermore, the snare-heavy drive of “Providence” morphs gracefully into a well executed 7/4 groove–relief from the monotonous 4/4 that perpetually grips the reins of modern popular music. From the heavily syncopated distortion guitar rifts that structure “My Number”s upbeat punk to the soft and smooth sentiments of “Late Night”, Foals demonstrates their capacity to create a viable and evolving indie rock record.
Review by David Riott.