It’s always an odd conundrum when a band you’ve grown up loving comes out with new new stuff. Take Arctic Monkeys: when AM came out, I wasn’t the only one a little on edge through the first listen. For days it was all “whatever happened to the Sheffield lads running from cops on street corners?” and protestations that they’d sold out in favour of LA sunshine and Barbarella swimsuits. That is it was until people realised that yes, Whatever People Say I am… presents a completely different band to AM but such a notion’s like complaining that your mate doesn’t dress the same in their twenties as when they were thirteen. Sadly yes, the jeans are better fitted and the hair finally groomed but they grew up, and in the process created what’s been dubbed musical genius and the best album of the decade.
This then, I get, and all is well in the frozen monkey world. What then, about Foals? Antidotes changed the way I thought about music, their 2010 date at Bristol University was my first proper gig, their Latitude set made my weekend and even the black-eye I got in the process bearable. I’ve stood twice in line in the rain for tickets, and once for hours in a drizzly side-street in Shoreditch to be in the video for ‘My Number’ (this actually paid off, if you count a blurry half-second shot as paying off). It’s pretty clear then that Foals made a big impression on my adolescence. Given then my boisterously opinionated nature it’s this which is all I can think is keeping me from making a normally instinctive decision; whether or not I like something, in this case the first two tracks released from their upcoming album ‘What Went Down‘.
Take the title track for example. With my face in something close to a confused sneer, my first listen to ‘What Went Down’ wasn’t a positive one. It seemed try hard and just – to me at least – not very Foals-y. I know this shouldn’t be a consideration, yet it was. Even after Holy Fire, a deviation from their previous ‘norm’, this move from my set idea of how I understand Foals got me all mixed up. After forcing this out and listening to it over and over and over, I realised it is actually everything I like in a track. Passionate vocals, lyrics, and some genuinely interesting and dynamic music as they plough through chorus after almost punky chorus. This then, I’ve ended up liking, both objectively and subjectively.
‘Mountain At My Gates’ though is still a different story. Again, I know it’s an objectively good, maybe even really good track. It’s fun and sincere, Yannis’ lyrics still make sense (a miracle in itself), and it’s split into distinct sections which all tie in together to make a track which tugs you through the song – in my case a little reticently still – as an understated bridge bursts into a vigorous full band jam.
So as crappy as it sounds, if anyone else had released ‘Mountain At My Gates’ I’d probably really like it. Weirder still, I can imagine myself right now really liking it and won’t be at all surprised if I love it in a week or so. But my problem right now isn’t that they’ve moved on and progressed, but that the way I’m listening to it now it just doesn’t sound like them. Case in point, my sister just asked me if I was listening to Jungle. Nope lil Sis, that’s Foals. Her face too was a picture. So I don’t care if it makes me a crappy reviewer, but my review for you is this; make your own minds up. Mine’s too busy being confused.