The story of Foals’ second album could not be told without the victories won by the first. One of the strangest, most exotic creatures to have seen the upper realm of the UK album charts this young century (debuting at #3 upon release), Antidotes was a special album. In the idiot clamor of retro guitars, its keen sense of dare and future marked the Oxford quintet out as a band keen to establish their own context: hurtling along on incessant, acrobatic fret-play and cymbals hissing with the bliss of exertion. It won them attention, and the chance to evolve in a space of their own.
Two years on from that impressive introduction, a choice has been made—rather than contort Antidotes’ lissom guitars into ever more elaborate patterns, Total Life Forever is the sound of a band settling into and surveying the decay of old protocols. The restless, woven guitar tattoos of their debut haunt its successor, remembered only in fragments. The pace is less breakneck. Foals have relaxed the formulas and diagrams used to build their early identity and stretch out, instead, in the sad, quiet chaos of rot.
“The band emerged out of a set of rules at the beginning,” explains 23-year-old frontman and guitarist Yannis Philippakis. “Aesthetic parameters—guitar played high and staccato; that whole… schtick, y’know?”
“We and Antidotes were quite self-aware so we’ve tried to regress into a more naive state. To cut away at that conscious thing… A song will just be about expression now. It’ll be more honest.”
The result is a sound as persuasive emotionally as Antidotes was physically. Whereas that album constantly reinforced its own presence by filling the air with yelping and…
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