I don’t know if this makes any sense, but the introduction of big name producers Flood and Alan Moulder into the Foals’ world with their third release-Holy Fire-makes the band’s transition from the clubs to the theatres sound like practically a necessity.
That’s not to suggest that Foals are assured of bigger audiences or that Holy Fire is that much of a creative improvement over the surprising Total Life Forever (it isn’t), it’s merely an acknowledgement that dropping the extra pounds for the knob twiddlers achieved the desired effect: the band sounds bigger, deeper and strikingly original.
But just because Foals sound good in their big boy pants, it doesn’t mean that Holy Fire smokes all the way down to the filter.
There are several moments of undeniable grooves and truly inspired performances. It begins with the anthemic opener “Inhaler” and it continues with Foals’ trademark syncopated guitars and funky rhythms.
The record’s two high-water marks follow that comfortable pattern, “Late Night” and “Milk & Black Spiders.” The former utilizes a slow-burn effect, gradually building until the band stumbles back around to the song’s killer rhythm, where it rides it for a minute when it could easily milk it for another five.
“Milk & Black Spiders” follows suit, but Flood & Moulder add some plucked strings to the taut rhythms, giving the Foals’ secret weapon an entirely new dynamic.
also makes a similar connection, but then Holy
Fire makes an unwelcomed swing by the self-aggrandizing slower numbers that
end the record.
Ironically, Foals have attempted such serene moments before and won. But in the context of Holy Fire’s already massive intentions, these moments are a bit overbearing. It can nearly derail the impact of the entire record if you allow it, wallowing in its own girth and unintentional comparisons.
Thankfully, the aftertaste doesn’t stick and you’ll remember Holy Fire for what it’s intended to be: a full-flavored toke of one of rock music’s wide-eyed upstarts with arena-sized ambitions. Its impact depends on how much you appreciate (or miss) the band’s clear inspirations (read U2, Radiohead, The Cure) and its place in their own history depends on how much you think their last two records burned new paths/