Foals have come a long way from their Oxford house party headlining days. Where their debut was all pop staccato riffs, their second record dug up emotional torment and heartache to its great credit. Holy Fire is in its own realm; at times tongue-in-cheek in its vitriolic assertions, intermittently serenely sad and an immediate reminder that this five-piece continue to chart new territory.
There’s a fresh subtle layer at work on songs like Prelude and Inhaler, the latter giving way in the chorus to a newly aggressive Yannis Philippakis demanding space over a barrage of grinding guitars. Yet just as quickly as the listener is introduced to this new, ferocious Foals, we step back into the classic party vibe with My Number. The song manages to beguile with its singalong chorus and jangling riffs, but a sharp ear would detect a hint of sarcasm in Philippakis’ words. On Providence it is his voice alone that rings out with the words “I’m an animal just like you”, before pummelling guitars take over. Elsewhere he once again trudges down the well-worn roads of ambiguous aching – especially on Stepson with a cautious Philippakis urging us on with “Step by aching step son and you’ll fall into the blue”, and with Moon’s soft shadowy keys and his words of “It is coming now my friend and it’s the end”.
The musicianship across the board is phenomenal, having truly captured the power of stillness as much as bombarding us with sound, building into crescendos and falls sporadically but gracefully. From the thumping Everytime to the borderline inspiring Out Of The Woods, Holy Fire rings with a refreshing surety.
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