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Foals – ‘Rip Up The Road’ review: “A deep dive into the men behind the melodies”

A feature-length look at one the most consistently exciting guitar bands around – complete with a stray dog playing a game of rounders

For all their success, there’s always been a slight emotional disconnection between the music Foals make and the men who make it. Their music has long been a fairly unique proposition; spindly post rock transmuted into euphoric party pop. But this is a band who have long been defined by their output, not what its creators have to say about it. 

In some circles, maybe that’s how things should be. Do we need to know the motivation of the people who pack our baked beans – or do we just need a tin of delicious baked beans? Music though, is emphatically not baked beans. Especially not the sort of music that Foals make; sweaty, pheromone drenched, jerky but not jerk-y, inclusive. Little else is as transcendent as Foals when at full gallop, but how much do we really know about the men who make it? 

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Rip Up The Road, a new feature-length documentary does much to rectify this. The film takes the band from the completion of the two records they’ve released this year, ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1 & 2’, through yet another triumphant headline performance at London’s Alexandra Palace and spends an evening with the band embracing the chaos of Glastonbury after dark, during which Yannis Philippakis states: “It feels like you’re going to run into Pan, with his cloven hooves and a massive erection, playing his flute in a forest while dousing himself in wine…” It then ploughs headlong into a year in which Foals firmly place knives and forks for themselves at the top table of British pop.

This means demonic rabbits, behaving “like boozy babies” as the band head to Australia and New Zealand, an existential Radiohead-y meltdown about the band’s desire – and failure – to reduce carbon emissions and multiple moments where being in a band looks like the quickest way to a complete mental and emotional breakdown. There’s also genuine insight into what makes Foals special (“the best shows are where it feels like a communion between the crowd and the five guys on stage”), criticism of themselves concerning the times when that doesn’t happen and a game of rounders with a stray dog on the beach. It’s hardly The Dirt, but nor should it be. 

What Rip Up The Road is – for the first time ever, really – is a deep dive into the personalities who make up one of the country’s most consistently exciting bands. They’re friends, but they’re sometimes fractured. Voices are raised. Shirts come off. We also find out that they’re one of the smartest bands around. One of the most empathetic. A gang. Through Rip Up The Road we learn who Foals are. We like who these people are. And, like all the best music journalism, we like the music more for having the people who make it revealed to us. Also, Bangkok looks like a seriously great time. 

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There’s something else going on here too; almost as if the band themselves are joining the viewer on this journey of discovery. “What is the point of spending two years of your life on something that only has oxygen for three months?” ponders Yannis in the wake of a disappointing gig. Any creator asking themselves how to make art of substance within an era where the fight isn’t so much for sales, but engagement, will relate. There’s another moment at the very start of the film, where Yannis asks the viewer – but perhaps more so himself – if there is a “purpose to being a musician in 2019?” He pauses for a second. “Maybe there isn’t – but I’m going to figure that out…”

Rip Up The Road is a film where we get the opportunity to understand Foals in a way we’ve never done before. Simultaneously it gives the band a canvas to do the same about themselves. It is a film that asks why we love music and why music is made and shows us the men behind the melodies. 

Rip Up The Road is available to stream now on Amazon Prime

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