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Published on May 21st, 2019 | by voxx

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Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost

The quartet move into more expansive waters on the first slice of their two-LP opus…

Even at the best of times, the double album can be an unwieldy beast. In this age of mass attention deficit, it’s a particularly chancy move. Smarter than the average bears, Foals have decided to split what is effectively their first double into two separate releases, with Part 2 of the ominously-titled Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost due in the autumn.

Four years on from their fourth album, What Went Down, it’s easy to forget – what with the arena-filling grunge/dance juggernaut they’ve become – that initially Foals were a bunch of art-rock, math-funk nerds from Oxford. In some ways, this first installment of their fifth puts them in touch with who they were, as they give themselves room to breathe and stretch out into different areas.

Self-produced by frontman Yannis Philippakis – in a Peckham rehearsal-cum-recording studio where they could lay down their ideas, practise and refine them as a band, then record again – there’s a sense of newfound creative freedom evident here. Even the amicable departure of bassist Walter Gervers ahead of the sessions has been turned into an advantage – exhibit A being the analogue synth bass bounce of the house-flavoured ‘In Degrees’.

Throughout, it’s a mix-and-matching of upbeat grooves with heavy lyrical sentiments that characterises the record. If Philippakis’s words swing between inner turmoil and fear of the future in a chaotic world, the fact that it all sounds so “up” powers it through potential “we’re doomed” doldrums. Those who don’t spend much time tuning into lyrics might even mistake it for a straightforward rave-up.

The cowbell-driven, super-catchy ‘On The Luna’ encapsulates the album’s outlook in one statement: “We had it all and we didn’t stop to think about it.” There are repeated images of environmental apocalypse (dead animals, burning countryside), and in ‘Exits’, visions of life lived in underground tunnels in a terrible age to come. The dub-rock, Sandinista!-era Clash vibes of ‘Syrups’, meanwhile – with its standout line, “I try to make a call to heaven/Phone lines cut back in ’97” – sounds like an echo of the dread forecast by Radiohead in the year of the release of OK Computer.

Still, Foals sound like they’re having fun with this stuff too. When the guitars kick into the oddly-named ‘White Onions’, with its wordless, crowd-ready “woah-o-woah-o” chant, you can picture Philippakis diving into the mosh-pit come the second chorus. In other parts, they’re clearly revelling in painting with new production colours, whether it be the airy sampled voices and birdsong of opener ‘Moonlight’ or the polyrhythmic marimba arpeggios of ‘Café D’Athens’ that nod towards Peter Gabriel.

Foals’ four-year absence from the studio has evidently done them good. As Philippakis puts it in the piano ballad section of ‘Sunday’, before the song doubles its BPM and restarts the party, “Time away from me is what I need to clear my sight and clear my head.” This is obviously only half of the picture – Part 2 promises tracks that push over the 10-minute mark – but Everything Not Saved… is an exercise in artistic liberation.

More importantly, perhaps, since it’s chock-full of tunes, it all comes without them losing the creative ground they’ve gained. As a quartet, Foals have entered their second phase, and things are starting to get really interesting.

- By Jake White


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