The Foals of a decade ago might as well be a completely different band from the one of today. When Antidotes was released in 2008, it definitely showed promise as far as slightly coy, nerdy math-rock and dance-punk went, but ever since then, Foals have been evolving and outgrowing themselves at a rather startling rate. It was a bold move to make Inhaler the lead-off single for their third album Holy Fire, given how, with roaring crescendos and an uncomfortable darkness that underscored it, it was a far cry from anything the band had previously delivered. But that’s the norm for Foals now, and thanks to their perennial reinvention, they’ve easily become the most interesting of today’s big indie mainstays. And as such, a double album only seems to be the next natural step, particularly one that’s split apart by a few months to really hammer home that Foals are doing things their own way. Even for what’s typically a blaring red flag of market saturation to get those streams as high as possible, Foals’ previous creativity and uniqueness does leave their decision feeling justified, even if only on a first impression.
As such, that whole mindset can make it feel like Foals themselves are trying to justify how scattered and slight Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1 feels, throwing various sonic ideas into the pot that don’t necessarily coalesce, and following a lyrical throughline that, in all honesty, can feel a bit undercooked and slightly lacking in dynamism. And yet, even as what effectively half a project, Foals’ sheer creativity and fearlessness within the indie-rock space continues to soar, and the lushness of even an album as short as this really does speak for itself. Whether it works as an album on its own merits is ultimately debatable (it’s probably more suited to being judged as a collection of songs more so than any other Foals album to date), but Part 1’s highlights are continuously able to hit the sort of watermark that’s been this band’s forte for a long time.
That alone is testament to Foals’ malleability as musicians, especially when this album looks to amp up the diversity from their last couple of releases to not only cast glances at their skittish early material, but also at a modern brand of indie-rock that they’ve yet to fully investigate. Exits might draw the tightest parallels with Holy Fire and What Went Down in its stalking, measured basslines and sense of scope fully indebted to arena-rock, but White Onions and On The Luna feel much more slimmed-down by comparison with their sharper, more pronounced grooves and angularity, and In Degree and Cafe D’Athens fully double back on themselves with tropical, intricate percussion and a keener eye for danceable rhythms. It’s certainly fragmented and doesn’t has a rock-solid a core as its predecessors, but Foals’ inventiveness is hard to fault, particularly when they truly hit their stride. In Degrees is the clearest example with its four-to-the-floor beat and glittering keys that make use of production that almost feels African-inspired in its emphasis of fascinating, complex rhythms, but the slow burn and suppleness of Syrups that perfectly builds into another wonderfully layered drumline and the Balearic xylophone twinkles of Cafe D’Athens feel indicative of a band focusing their energy on spiking their creativity in certain areas rather than across the board. It might sound counterproductive (particularly with a couple of cuts that do definitely drag at the album’s end), but the handful of true gems that are offered does make it seem worthwhile in the long run.
It’s a similar case with the writing, funnily enough, though in terms of isolating a place where Foals stumble the most, it’d probably be here. That’s not to say it’s outright bad, and as far as the scores of bands who’ve attempted to pen their visions of an apocalyptic near-future go, this is far from the worst in screeds on global warming on Exits and In Degrees, a general sense of apathy from the people nonplussed about the issues they’re palming off on younger generations on On The Luna, and a generally bleak tableau to cap the discussion off on I’m Done With The World (& It’s Done With Me). The issue comes in how these ideas attempt to connect to the instrumentation and production, namely in the clear disconnect that only develops more prescience the further that Foals go. Even with the twisting imagery, this is probably their most clearly-written effort to date in many ways, and when there’s a sense of obliqueness that wants to be delivered elsewhere, namely in how far they’re extrapolating their ideas, it’s hard not to see this as an album that’s a bit top-heavy, never truly going the distance in the writing that it potentially could or should.
Having said that, the fact that this is only the first part of the whole project is a bit more encouraging when considering where Foals are going to go next, and the fact that this already has a fair number of choice moments makes it a likable listen all the same. It definitely feels truncated and would benefit from a second part, but at the same time, Foals have a knack for progressive, interesting indie-rock that it’s impossible to dislike this, even with its shortcomings, and there’s still plenty here to dissect on its own. It’s where the status of being such a fascinating band really begins to pay dividends, and Foals are able to take advantage of that maybe more than anyone else.
For fans of: Bloc Party, Everything Everything, Talking Heads
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1’ by Foals is out now on Warner Music.