It’s no surprise Foals are the last ones standing. From their earliest days tearing through house parties to their more recent, equally-chaotic shows at the top of festival bills, they’ve been a rock, weathering fads, hype and buzz through a decade-plus career.
Where peers in The Maccabees and Wild Beasts have fallen by the wayside, Foals have stayed stoic. Be it by the sheer bloody-mindedness of their near-iconic frontman Yannis Phillippakis, or their ever-morphing sound – one which, in recent years, has taken on a new, beefed-up brutality, seemingly in response to the tired notion that guitar music has lost its potency – there’s been little doubting Foals’ resilience. ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost: Part 1’ is testament to that survivors’ streak. It is also Foals’ best album to date.
“It’s like ‘Antidotes’ with a protein shake, or ‘Total Life Forever’ on a pinger”
Where those last two records – 2013’s ‘Holy Fire’ and 2015’s ‘What Went Down’ – streamlined their attack, replacing the intricacies of Foals’ early, math-rock influenced output with a more direct, ferocious approach, ‘Everything Not Saved… Part 1’ wastes no time in reintroducing the Oxford group’s complexities. Lead single ‘Exits’ was a prime example, the twinkling guitar work and background oddities of those debut album days filtered through a decidedly beefed-up pedalboard. That essence can be felt through ‘In Degrees’’s fusion of twiddly guitar lines and pulsing techno, and ‘Syrups’’s wobbly, psych-trip-in-a-circus sonic world. At every turn, ‘Everything Not Saved… Part 1’ takes the intricacies of Foals’ early guises and dusts them off, bulking it up to break through a more impenetrable world. It’s like ‘Antidotes’ with a protein shake, or ‘Total Life Forever’ on a pinger.
Self-production can make or break a band, either letting creativity run free, or egos go unchecked. With the famously hot-headed Yannis behind the decks, it could’ve swung either way, but ‘Everything Not Saved… Part 1’ is proof that the frontman’s confidence is well-placed. Most notably, synths and electronics are whacked up in the mix, adding a wealth of new textures to an already kaleidoscopic band. They’ve always been an outlier to the conventional idea of a British indie band, as inspired by the hypnotism of dance music as they were the Dark Fruits Twitter ideal of three-chord riffs and a festival flare, but when the plonking xylophones of ‘Café D’Athens’ lead the melody, or the balearic jam of ‘Sunday’ takes over the track’s second half, Foals strike out on their own like never before. By the time ‘I’m Done With The World (& It’s Done With Me)’ leads proceedings towards part two, their most haunting number since ‘Spanish Sahara’ closes out a record that showcases every angle of Foals’ magic.
Regardless of where you checked in on Foals’ journey – or, heaven forbid, checked out again – there’s something to sink into on ‘Everything Not Saved… Part 1’. The intricacies and experimentalism of those math-rock early days, the spacey ambience of ‘Total Life Forever’, and the bolshy production brilliance of those last two records: it’s all here. If this is just the first act of ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost’, then this era may just prove to be Foals’ making.
NME Radio will be hosting an exclusive track-by-track interview and listening party on the evening of ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost: Part 1”s release, featuring interviews with and insights from Yannis and guitarist Jimmy Smith.
To hear the album first along with the band’s own insight, tune into NME 1 at 00.01am on Friday March 8.