Foals: Holy Fire
Alternative & Indie
For the last decade or so, the train that is British indie music has chugged along with gusto, giving impetus to every wannabe musician. Said impetus has produced a veritable kaleidoscope of musicians and bands, each one claiming to have come forth with a unique musical brainwave. Giving these musical messiahs the benefit of the doubt, the transition between playing in front of one man and his dog at a pub and mainstream limelight has been the death of many and has stifled the flood, somewhat. While the likes of Kasabian and the Cribs have found their own paths of mainstream penetration, the Arctic Monkeys of this world have struggled to hit the dizzy heights set out for them.
In Foals, we have a band that has taken the necessary evolution at their own pace and comfort. As their third album in five years, following 2008 debut, Antidotes, and 2010’s follow-up, Total Life Forever, Holy Fire comes as the most chart-friendly work of the Oxford natives. More importantly, though, this is an album that fits their status as one of the most thoroughly-enjoyed British indie bands.
Having slowly moved away from the thrash and hammer approach to music, the five-man band open Holy Fire as they mean to go on. ‘Prelude’ provides, well, a prelude that lingers instrumentally; the echo of a simple guitar riff slowly building to a percussive explosion, signalling the distant wails of front-man and Oxford dropout, Yannis Philippakis. Said wails develop into an effeminate snarl well into the chorus of the album’s first single, ‘Inhaler’; it’s a track that envelopes the band’s sound in a funk-ridden haunt, before a more familiar, almost generic, indie styling on ‘My Number’ is saved from the obscurity of being just another catchy indie-pop track by Philippakis’ eternally engaging vocals.
And so these are the main two strands of Holy Fire. The promises of ‘Prelude’ are fulfilled in a haunted, futuristic evocation, most notably on ‘Every Time’ and standout track, ‘Milk & Spiders’. The latter manages to sore and glide along in the grandest of ways, while maintaining a typical indie tempo, so to speak.
Tracks such as ‘Providence’, meanwhile, are injected with a funk and verve that casts the net wide enough for both loyal fans and fence-sitters to enjoy, while closing tracks, ‘Stepson’ and ‘Moon’ conclude the album perfectly, as if to close to a slow, mystical slump.
Beyond Philippakis’ skills as a front-man, there’s a degree of anonymity in regards to the rest of the band; one that, at times, translates into Holy Fire as a bland, humdrum undertone. This is an important album for Foals, but in such a saturated bubble of the musical landscape, this is by no means a groundbreaking release.