Monday, December 27, 2010

Foals - Total Life Forever

It’s going to take a few spins to appreciate Foals’ muse-for the first few plays of their second release, I put it in the increasingly growing category of bands that count Talking Heads’ Fear Of Music as their primary business model.

I also thought it was a re-issue of Catherine Wheel’s Chrome album until I looked at the cover art more closely.

After a few more listens, I began to notice all of those math-rock influences that Foals’ members claim to have instilled in them.

So in addition to Fear Of Music, check out their love of Don Caballero’s American Don and watch how they turn Total Life Forever into a rhythmic avalanche of interloping guitar patterns and paradiddled high-hats.

Foals may be building to some form of release throughout Total Life Forever’s eleven tracks, but lyrically it sounds like what began the construction was dismal stuff.

“You were better than anything that ever came before” vocalist Yannis Philippakis pleads during “After Glow,” his voice breaking like the most heart wrenching Robert Smith moment, “Without you here to save me, save me from the door.” At that moment, the band kicks into overdrive before undertaking a polyrhythm shuffle, complete with cleanly picked staccatos and roller-coaster feedback.

Probably the most head-spinning moment comes after you’ve progressed through Total Life Forever a few times. It’s “Miami,” one of the record’s shortest tracks and certainly the most accessible, complete with sweet backing vocals and concise groove. Yannis asks, “Will you be there for me in Miami” before asking the significant other if they’re up to the task of saving him again from some other turmoil.

Total Life Forever isn’t without certain faults. That “Miami” track is probably my least favorite, but the one that will ultimately gain the biggest attraction; it’s bouncy appeal becoming the record’s most unnatural entry.

It’s about 10 minutes too long which means that a lot of those plucked guitars and tail-wagging grooves begin to sound alike after a while, only to have their identities come forward after spending additional time.

The good news is that additional attention is pleasurable and makes Total Life Forever a rewarding listen. It also means that the subtlety may make Foals’ impressive second album one that ultimately gets overlooked-a casualty of Philippakis’ sweet vocals and the band’s own ease at building beauty from their doubt and misery.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

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