The alt-rock outfit finally return with the much-anticipated first instalment of a two-piece project. John Earls encounters a percussive return to form that looks back but only to go forward
The omens weren’t good. Companion albums rarely work – U2 eventually abandoned the sequel to career nadir No Line On The Horizon, while their energetic Songs Of Experience would surely have fared better without its associations to the iTunes-infiltrating Songs Of Innocence, released a full three years earlier. More usually, as with Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion I & II, there’s the suspicion that the band can’t be bothered working out what their best songs are and foist them all on the listener at double the price.
This could have been what happened to Foals. It’s been four years since What Went Down, which itself felt a placeholder album. Its title track was their greatest song, an indie disco juggernaut. But much of the rest was murky and claustrophobic, not quite advancing Foals to the guaranteed festival headliner status album four could expectedly have awarded them.
Thankfully, the time away has refreshed the Oxford band enough that, on this evidence, they really might have created enough good music for two disparate albums. Singer Yannis Philippakis has indicated the first part is a timely return to their dancier side, with the rock outings saved for Part 2 in the autumn. He’s certainly right that anyone who did the indie two-step to My Number will find plenty to cherish here.
Short and brutal
While the songs seem to be set in a post-apocalyptic world of abandoned cities and climate change disasters, their groove offers a nihilistic escapism.
The six-minute Sunday starts as an epic phones-aloft ballad before switching without warning halfway through into a mighty techno banger where Philippakis channels Underworld’s Karl Hyde to babble shamanically about friends coming together. Syrups also builds from a stately grandeur into a percussive assault – drummer Jack Bevan is going to be exceptionally busy touring this album. Best of all is In Degrees, which may be five minutes long
but feels short and brutal.
This doesn’t mean there’s no room for nuance. Part 1 is bookended by the atmospheric Moonlight and I’m Done With The World (& It’s Done With Me), with the tranquil Café D’Athens providing respite in between. It’s Foals’ first wholly self-produced album, but they co-produced their debut Antidotes with Dave Sitek and its restless mood somehow feels spiritually aligned with their early days.
A £50 heavyweight vinyl boxset, housing a hardback book and exclusive 7″ of lead single Exits, is a suitably full-on home for both parts of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, though having one of its two art prints signed by only one band member feels a swizz. You can afford four Sharpies, gents.
Such merchandising quibbles aside, unless Part 2 turns out to be the dodgy off-cuts, then Foals are back on track. They’re deliberately headlining smaller festivals, such as Truck and Boardmasters this summer. Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost deserves to have enough momentum that 2020’s main stages will belong to Foals.