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Foals – Holy Fire

Oxford’s Foals are a strange sort of band. When they broke through with the energy-filled Mathletics, they were undoubtedly a math-rock band. This is was a theme that was continued well into their debut album Antidotes, a masterpiece in the trademark staccato guitar work of that genre. However for their follow-up, Total Life Forever, they shifted their style to a more wafty, anthemic sound, exemplified by their slow-burning hit single Spanish Sahara.

Having escaped the perils of “second album syndrome” though, it was always going to be interesting to see how they approached their brand new third album, especially as their previous critical acclaim and live prowess hadn’t seemed to quite fire them into the public domain thusfar.

Holy Fire starts with a proggy four-minute instrumental, resembling a showcase of the band’s individual abilities. You half expect singer Yannis Philippakis to start saying things like “On bass, Mr Walter Gervers…” before the four-string lick starts, but it’s an instrumental… Then the fun really starts as the pizzicato guitar work of excellent lead single Inhaler (below) kicks in, joined as it in by a crescendo preceding the bombastic blast of a chorus, before we go back to the prog-funk.

And that really best sums the band up. They still have their roots in the math-rock they started with, but have sucked up influences from funk (My Number) as well as the anthemic emotional rock of their second album. This album gathers all the elements of their previous efforts and mashes them all together. It might not be perfect, but when it works it is superb.

Foals continue to be the thinking man’s Friendly Fires, the connoisseur’s Delphic and one of the UK’s most inventive bands. Long may it continue.

by Harry Harland