Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost

Oxford indie boys Foals get to spread out and stretch their creative chops on new double album, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost

Foals are a band who have always hinted at their true potential. Their journey from math-rockers towards the outskirts of the noughties indie scene to one of the nation’s biggest mainstream rock bands, whilst maintaining a consistent level of musical competence, indicates the strength of their commercial determination, but so too has there always been a hint that the band have far-reaching creative ambitions too. Every now and then there’d be a track that drifts into glorious, shimmering psychedelia, or they’d hit a thrusting, wonky groove for a minute or two that, while it lasted, was irresistible.

Marrying these two into a cohesive whole – an entire album that maintains the group’s huge mainstream appeal whilst also allowing them to flex their experimental muscles to the extent that you always felt they were capable of – is the only thing that’s eluded them so far. From the moment they announced that Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost would be a double album, spaced out over two releases, it was evident that they were upping their musical ambitions, but the question remained whether they could do so whilst still satisfying their considerable fanbase.

It’s not as easy a task as it might sound – indie fans can be a fickle bunch. Just look at how divisive Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquility Base Hotel And Casino was amongst a fanbase that would hitherto worship Alex Turner’s every croon. On the strength of the first half of Foals’ new project, however, they’re not about to cause a similar rift. To be clear, this is not a grand, experimental, boundary-pushing masterpiece – Foals are still playing to their own audience – but never before have they managed to slip quite this many exciting musical ideas into what is by now a defined aesthetic. Part one of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost is riddled with fascinating excursions into dance, psychedelia and elegant stadium pop.

It’s Foals’ command of texture that makes this record so immediately appealing, and so much better than anything they’ve released in the past. While their last album What Went Down suffered from an overreliance on muddy, guitar-driven rock, on Everything Not Saved… they embrace a cornucopia of aesthetics. Every now and then it gets a little muddled, but for the most part it makes for a bright and glistening listen. Sometimes it’s a simple touch, the delicately plucked harp hidden behind the guitar on opener ‘Moonlight’ for example, which builds slowly over distant birdsong and ghostly waves of synth, and sometimes it’s brash and bold, like the wild psychedelic kraut explosion that caps off the excellent ‘Syrups’, and as a whole it makes for an album that keeps its listener on their toes with unending twists and turns.

Not that every one of these shifts in momentum quite works. ‘White Onions’ suffers a little from its brashness as it races through a rock thrasher that feels one dimensional in the context of this layered LP, while closing ballad ‘I’m Done With The World (And It’s Done With Me)’ takes a while to properly unfurl. That said, when Foals properly kick into gear on this record it can be staggering to behold. Lead singles ‘Exits’ and ‘On The Luna’ remain tied to the distinct aesthetic the band have established over their last few records, but remain excellent within that sphere. The former is swaggering and layered, leaving space for a poised, charismatic lead vocal from Yannis Philippakis. The latter, meanwhile, is probably the best pop song Foals have ever recorded, a slick track that thrives off its own momentum, peppered with splendid blasts of synth, and weaving layers of melody.

It must be said, that for all the ideas Foals throw at this record, for the most part they stick to a broader template that has served them well so far. There’s still that sense that the band could be more experimental still – imagine a whole album that expands on the glorious, epic prog of the monolithic ‘Sunday’, for example – but then again there’s a reason the band have stuck to a similar formula for their last few albums. What’s heartening about the first part of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost is that this formula has not become tired. Rather, the band are adding to it incrementally and progressing into ever more interesting territory.

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