Review: Foals – Holy Fire
Published on February 20th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
There seems to be quite a fuss accompanying the arrival of Foals’s third album, but it is not out of contrariness that Rocksucker admits to not really ‘getting’ it. Yes, Holy Fire swaggers and stomps its way through some pretty decent grooves, it’s well produced and well executed and all of that – but does it contain a single song that brings anything to anyone’s table? Does it horsemeat.
It’s polished stuff, sure, but the attendant mental image for Rocksucker rarely if ever deviated from that of earnest indie not-quite-moshing. That might be owed to our innate suspicion of anything presented so seriously – you know, serious-looking guys making no-nonsense-bordering-on-academic music – and as such we are willing to accept culpability for just not being our cup of tea.
Whether it’s the ranty, inscrutable vocal permeating the background of “Prelude”, the reverby fast-picked lead guitar on “Inhaler” or the ’80s revivalism of “My Number”, there’s something naggingly clinical about Foals’s particular brand of ‘brooding’ that manifests itself in the realisation that their chronically uninteresting progressions and ‘washy’ atmospherics just make them a slightly edgier Florence + The Machine. And when we say ‘edgier’, we basically mean “have probably listened to more Led Zeppelin”.
Pretty much every song here exists in the same mood, activating a reliance on textures and percussive elements that’s only sporadically successful. There are good things to say – the assured falsetto on “Inhaler”, for example, is more pleasing than the default setting of ’80s-y spluttering, while the mix is generally busy enough to hold some sort of interest – but by the time that steamy, ethereal closer “Stepson” has limped over the finish line like a poor man’s Efterklang, you could be forgiven for feeling a little cheated by all the hype.
As unfair as it may be to compare bands to the pantheon of greats, we’re not prepared to settle for less. If Foals really are one of the UK’s hottest bands right now then popular music’s not doing its job properly, because it should tell you so much more about your life than this widescreen stadium disco-rock.
Rocksucker says: Two Quails out of Five!
Holy Fire is out now on Transgressive Records. For more information, please visit www.foals.co.uk