There’s always going to be doubt when any act announces the intention to release multiple albums in one year, but given how surprisingly divisive the first part of Foals’ Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost proved to be, it feels as though this companion effort is being released to decidedly muted reception. It’s strange to see overall; while the first was far from great, it saw Foals driving their sound even further towards the robust, progressive indie that’s been in their sights pretty much since Holy Fire in 2013, and it did a solid job overall. Add to that this album’s lead single Black Bull being a truly great song as one of the band’s heaviest, most feral cuts to date, and it would seem that there’s at least some leeway that can be afforded to Part 2. But that largely doesn’t seem to be the case for the most part, as Part 2 arrives in the wake of an album whose general consensus has already been mixed at best, and headed by the openly immense intentions of a band looking to really prove how far above their current station they’re capable of going.
But like Part 1, that level of trepidation doesn’t really seem to be justified overall. The typical double album flab hasn’t been done away with entirely, but Part 2 furthers the expansion of Foals’ repertoire with surprising ease, and pulls it off with the confidence of a band who’ve got a firm hand on exactly where they’re going. They’re more than capable of making big, powerful rock albums like this, and the relative pruning back of self-indulgent moments gives Part 2 a surprising amount of directness that works to their advantage. What’s more, it furthers the narrative started in its predecessor to the point where it does feel necessary to be its own thing, and even if there’s maybe not as much that can be done with that second half, Foals are still able to craft a suitably compelling and forceful release from it.
‘Forceful’ definitely feels like the operative word too, as Part 2 feels far more defined by its sense of swagger and hard rock rawness, perhaps more so than any full Foals album to date. Black Bull remains the star of the show with its gnashing, quaking guitars further punched-up by Yannis Philippakis at his most vocally manic and bug-eyed, but with the surging groove of The Runner and the blues-rock sizzle of Like Lightning, the accentuation of the rock core that’s historically been pushed to the side with this band has a muscle that they can ride off extremely well. It does mean it’s a bit disappointing when they drift back into the more languid, open waters of the album’s handful of closing tracks, but it’s not like Foals can’t hit that degree of quality with the same ease that they’ve always been capable of. The light-dappled production on Into The Surf certainly does a lot in that regard with its tranquil, washed-out tableaux and watery keys, and though the ten-minute closer Neptune is rather excessive, Foals’ knack for a prettiness when widening their sound out does still come through. But even so, and even compared to Part 1, the overall straightforwardness of Part 2 does play to its advantage, bringing out a feral side to Foals that’s been touched on in the past but never embraced to this extent, and tempering it with a less impressive but still necessary core of delicacy that makes the progressive elements within their sound feel most apparent.
It feels as though that accentuation has been done to make the most of how this album follows on from the last; whereas Part 1 was effectively chronicling the downfall of the planet, Part 2 is the attempt to survive in the remaining wasteland by any means necessary. There’s the original kernels of optimism on The Runner, quickly replaced by overriding arrogance and masculinity as primal behavioural techniques on Black Bull and Like Lightning, before hubristic shortcomings make themselves known on Dreaming Of and 10,000 Feet, and the only suitable course of action is to move on and find somewhere new to go on Neptune. The parallels to Brexit aren’t exactly hidden among it all, especially with lines like “Are you dreaming about the time / Way back when before you crossed the line?” on Dreaming Of, but it’s not exactly a bad move to take, especially when Foals can capture both the searing recklessness and quieter, more uncertain moments that feel so integral in forming this picture of a population leaning into their own collapse. That said – and it’s not exactly Foals’ fault that this is the case – it can all feel a bit spread thin, especially when considering both parts as two halves of the same release, and it can make the overall narrative progression feel spread thin, even though this sort of breakdown of parts is really the only way to make the throughline feel robust and not compressed too heavily. It’s a balance that Foals have certainly tried their hardest to cram everything into without it feeling bloated or overly heavy, and though it’s far more successful than other double albums approaching this sort of thing, it’s not quite perfect, and for all the individual moments that hit so hard, particularly on Part 2, it struggles to elevate the whole project to the greatness that’s in sight.
It’s still impressive that Foals have managed to do as much right as they have though, and the fact that both albums ultimately average out at the same high quality is a testament to just how far this band are willing to go in terms of their creativity. As for Part 2 on its own though, there are moments of high-octane brilliance that could potentially define a thrilling new direction for this band going forward, balanced by a solid amount of progression, even between projects, and a clarity in vision that’s executed about as well as it could be. Even with the relative lulls that can be a bit of a shame, it’s still an unequivocal success, breaking Foals out of the final shreds of the indie trappings they’d still been entangled in, and set them up on a path where they can achieve pretty much whatever they want. This two-album experiment is proof that they can pull it off, probably more convincingly than most who’ve tried.
For fans of: Everything Everything, Elbow, Kongos
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 2’ is out now on Universal Records.