Foals: Life Is Yours Album Review
Although they have long served as a more thoughtful alternative to the Big Britrock Lads with whom they have shared festival scenes, Foals does not try to be the thinking person’s alternative to anything anymore. If not exactly stupid down, Life is yours is Foals for Dummies – an airy, step-by-step simplification for people who want to understand the main point and do not mind being talked down to a little. They have gained far more fans than they have lost on the way from “matter rock” to algorithmic pop-rock, which now fits closely between Glass Animals and Måneskin at KROQ. And Life is yours is not a hard left turn, but the end result of a gradual streamlining: from a quintet to a trio (keyboardist Edwin Congreave resigned last year); from an indulgent, self-produced double album (spread over seven months) to a driving, Dan Carey-assisted 41 minutes; from the stadium scale, woolly funk from Cure and Red Hot Chili Peppers to Chic and Duran Duran’s sleek, subversive pop.
What remains in the first half of Life is yours are songs that deal with Foals’ more difficult instrumental interactions and subtle emotions and leave nothing at all open to interpretation. Yannis Philippakis sings sincerely and often clumsily about positivity, nostalgia, sex, dance and drugs in songs with appropriately blunt titles: “Wake Me Up”, “2AM”, “2001”. Their impact is entirely based on how much the listener is willing to give Foals the benefit of the doubt: The weak jabs against the climate crisis and Trump on 2019’s Everything that is not saved will be lost should not have been taken as a mandate for more of the same, then is not counter-programming a better use of Foal’s skill set? Having established his own formula over six albums, aren’t the Foals entitled to seek liberation in someone else?
Or is this style of music a way to the least resistance – more accommodating to Philippaki’s increasingly generic songwriting? Rhyming “fire” with “burning up my desire” instead of “burning higher” on “Wake Me Up” is what is suitable for a surprising turn here. There is a dissonance between the darker sexual impulses of “02:00” (“No, I can not sleep alone / I just want to go home and the time is 02:00 again”) and its chipper backing track, but no tension; I do not hear a desperate night seeker as much as someone who casually flirts in an afternoon queue at Glastonbury.
Then again, these are the places that foals have always occupied; no real dance DJ would probably reconfigure their playlist to accommodate a “2AM” 12 “remix.If the goal is to keep the party going for people who went into the tent below Total life forever and Holy fire, Foals definitely have the right idea. Everything that is not saved will be lost did not serve the typical function of a double album as either securing a band’s legacy or breaking boundaries; if anything, it proved that Foals, left to himself, could probably have filled a quadruple LP with less input on “Spanish Sahara” or “Inhaler”. No longer obsessed with the windswept ballads and aggro riffs that held them fast in the good graces of British rock magazines, Life is yours is the most consistent Foals album almost by default.
If it does not achieve the long-promised result of “filler-free” foals, Life is yours thrives unexpectedly when it reintegrates the studio trick that used to weigh down previous side Bs. The one-step solution: to apply all of these things to higher BPM. “Flutter” shifts from a vague urban bump to full-on screamadelica, a bold new context for the same old octave-shifting riffs. Philippakis’ falsetto is completely entangled in the elastic track of “Looking High”, the one case where the Foals remember that they have one of popular rock’s most inventive drummers. While calling for a band that has been far more successful in uniting their club and arena rock influences, even the title of the penultimate “The Sound” suggests a lesson that came too late: The more foals get lost in the joy of pure sound, the more they remind us of who they really are.
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