“I buried my heart in a hole in the ground with the roses and the lights and the cowards down town.” So begins the first single from Foals’ highly anticipated fourth album, yowled excitedly over a menacing keyboard drone. Yannis Philippakis has been talking up how he embraced his “inner madman” on his Oxford crew’s follow-up to 2013’s ‘Holy Fire’, recorded a dismembered ear’s throw from the French town Vincent Van Gogh had the infamous 1888 meltdown that left him marooned in a psychiatric ward. On this breathless title track, our first glimpse at what the band have been cooking up in Provence, it appears this wasn’t just idle chat. As guitars tear and claw around his bellowed lyrics, each one painting a Nick Cave-ish picture of a man uncomfortably close to a dangerous brink, he’s exactly the devil-grinned, chest-thumping “fevered creature” he told NME last week he’d wanted to channel. The result is chilling.
‘What Went Down’ sees the last remenants of the lightly mathy disco-beat party-rock the five-piece emerged with in 2008 annihilated in a crush of brute force gnarled guitars. “It’s one of the most savage and animalistic songs we’ve ever done,” explains Philippakis. “When we play it in a room, it just feels predatory, it feels like we’re on a hunt or something.” Arctic Monkeys producer James Ford, replacing ‘Holy Fire’ production pair Flood and Alan Moulder, “really pushed me to get into a place with the vocal texture where it was just like berserk.” It’s not all beserk though. After an 100mph opening rush of noise, over which Yannis barks about rust and vultures and a missing girl he can’t find, the track drops to a single quietly chugging guitar, before the same patient build that made ‘Spanish Sahara’ the spine-tingler it was, only darker hued. When it finally erupts, the tremors are seismic. This is Foals at their most punishing and it bodes seriously well for a record some doubted could top the charm of their last. Check it out above, and let us know what you think.