[sic] Magazine

Foals – Holy Fire

It is the third album in for Oxford band Foals and the bid for major league status begins here with an album that, according to the band, “kills their inner Woody Allen” (whatever that means). Foals are one of those bands who have in the past found themselves bracketed with Franz Ferdinand , Klaxons and, more latterly, a mash up of Mogwai meets U2 as they unleashed the furies in the wonderful ‘Spanish Sahara’.

All this points to the fact that they have built a reputation for being both quirky and clever whilst their frontman, Yannis Philippakis , can be somewhat of an acquired taste with his daft descriptions of their last album being ‘like the dream of an eagle dying’.

Holy Fire is clearly aimed at smoothing the more spiky edges of the band and is easily their most coherent and cohesive album to date. With top producers Flood & Moulder at the helm, the weight of their previous experience is brought to bear and the influence detectives will spot snatches of their work with Smashing Pumpkins , PJ Harvey , Nine Inch Nails , and The Killers . Their presence has undoubtedly hardened the bands sound, made it bigger and pushed it into a place which takes the Foals vehicle screaming away from the label marked ‘indie’.

As a result, some may find Holy Fire a bit too much like standard rock while others may hark back with fondness to the indie danceability of Antidotes . Others may alternatively heave a quiet sigh of relief and point out that for every excellent song on previous albums there were also infuriating examples of the ‘far too clever for their own good’ syndrome.

Perhaps the clearest example of the ‘new’ Foals is the single ‘My Number’. This is pure and simple, crystal clear, brilliant pop music, which you can dance to and which could top the charts across Europe with sustained airplay. It is a belter and will enthral festival goers splattered in Glastonbury mud. The same also applies to ‘Inhaler. This is a twisted, bible black nasty funk song the sort that the great American band Living Colour used to roll out on production lines. Come to think of it, there is also a faint nod to Peter Gabriel ‘s ‘Sledgehammer’. Two minutes into the song, Philippakis screams out ‘ I can get no space ‘ and in comes the huge Zeppelin power chords to knock you off the kitchen stool. It’s a snarling beast of a song and will undoubtedly raise the quantum of noise complaints to environmental health departments across local government.

Things calm considerably for ‘Bad Habit’, which is a fulsome song with an aching melody and a slippery grove brilliantly executed by the band. The three years that have been spent making this album has filled it with a huge dose of confidence and lyrically it is in a different division to its predecessors. One of the other standout tracks is ‘Late Night’, which reinforces the latter point. This is a thrilling heavyweight rock song, a sort of distant cousin of the feel achieved on ‘Spanish Sahara’ but underpinned by a muscular backdrop that could easily grace a TV On The Radio album. The passage of time will probably see it become recognised as one of their greatest songs.

Much funkier is ‘Out Of The Woods’ with a great Philippakis vocal, while the joyous electronica of ‘Milk & Black Spiders’ glides effortlessly towards the album’s conclusion. The whole thing is rounded off by the punchy rock of ‘Providence’ and then the concluding ‘Moon’ takes the album into a different realm ending it on a beautifully sombre note and showing that Foals have drawn some lessons from their Oxford forebears Radiohead .

Holy Fire probably does mark the transition from indie to a bigger more mainstream sound for Foals. But collectively it is an album for the band to be very proud of. It shows that the musical unit comprising Philippakis and fellow band members Jack Bevan , Walter Gervers , Edwin Congreave and Jimmy Smith are knitting together like plain and purl, in turn producing some of the finest British music on offer today. This is album is so good that it’s inevitable that the predictably irrelevant Barclaycard Mercury Prize is bound to pass it over. Don’t you make the same mistake.