With this double-length effort, the fifth and sixth albums of the Oxfordshire band’s career, Foals have propelled themselves into the literal world of rock stardom and the figurative world of dystopian fear. Their rallying cries to save the planet before it’s too late can be heard not just on the musical surface of brilliance, but also the humanitarian level of modern society. It’s something that many of us have known for a while, but now the message is loud and clear for us all to see: Foals are one of the best bands of their generation.
Foals’ trajectory to the heights of today has been steady but never faltering, with each album cycle they have become more and more accustomed to a wholly vivid stadium rock atmosphere and sound; from the humble math rock beginnings of 2008’s Antidotes to 2015’s rip-roaring What Went Down. After a four year break and the loss of a member, the Oxford born band have set sail on a daring voyage, one that they hoped would see them become not just a returning favourite, but THE band of 2019.
Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost is a mission statement; regardless of which part you prefer or which singles will be played on the latest indie playlist. It is a conceptual masterplan that was designed to be enjoyed in bulk, from the glitter of Moonlight to the grit of Neptune; and that’s why I have decided to review it as such, looking at both parts as a musical journey, despite them being labelled under two studio album releases.
The dish on this conceptual menu is the idea of the world ending, the embers of Earth slowly burning before our very eyes. It is naturally a very damning message, one of neglect and turmoil, but there are moments of solitude and acceptance of the inevitability; so let’s have a good time while we’re here. “Cities burn but we don’t give a damn, ’cause we got all our friends right here and we’ve got youth to spend” sings frontman Yannis Philippakis on Sunday, a progressive up-lifter of an anthem that takes the doom and gloom of eternal destruction and embraces the idea of living in the moment.
What Foals do better than just about anyone on the planet right now is build a track to a vibrant crescendo, and both parts of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost demonstrate this in abundance. The anticipation rises with each passing note on Syrups before a typically passionate vocal outburst from Yannis, as is also the case on Wash Off which is blessed with a wonderfully slick guitar riff before an intense delivery in the latter stages. They’ve always been dipping their toes in prog rock, but these two albums feel like the bold leap that’s been threatened for a while; and they absolutely stick the landing.
Yannis’ lyrics on these albums are littered with double-entendres, impactful meaning and socially aware commentary. His notion of “Trump clogging up my computer” in On The Luna is witty and comical, a light-hearted jab at the unescapable wrath of the polarising President of the United States of America; while the survival instinct of the words on Like Lightning look at the imagery of weather and pathetic fallacy moulding Yannis into the man he is today. “Under a setting sun I will not be undone, my day has just begun” is an obvious highlight from this performance. He goes down different avenues with his sub-plots, but the MO is laser focused.
What will keep people coming back to this era of the Foals dynasty is, alongside the bold concept, the variety of hits and the genre-bending styles they adopt. While Part 2 is blatantly more rock-leaning with throaty revs like Black Bull and The Runner (both of which are up there with Foals’ very best), it is complimented beautifully with the experimental cuts on Part 1; whether that be the heart-wrenching piano ballad I’m Done With The World (And It’s Done With Me) or the disco-infused banger In Degrees. Part 1 was more experimental because of the narrative in its entirety, things weren’t quite burning as ferociously as they are on Part 2 so there’s leeway for a bit of glitz and glamour.
If I were to pick a favourite of the two parts, I would lean towards Part 2, I just think it wraps up the elements of the project’s context impeccably and shows Foals in their best form; as a catchy, all-encompassing rock band. The aforementioned Neptune is a 10 minute long barnstormer of a finale, fit to be the closing chapter of just about any rock album this side of the decade. Both parts are great, when brought together they are even better. As a concept it is the most focused and heroic display of the band’s career, and the music weighs up right alongside their other fantastic work. As I am writing this it is looking increasingly likely that Foals will find themselves atop the British album charts this week, a feat that has criminally never been managed by them before; and there truly is no band that deserves it more than them. Foals Forever, with bands like this around, indie rock music is in perfectly safe hands.
BEST TRACKS: Exits, In Degrees, Syrups, On The Luna, Sunday, I’m Done With The World (And It’s Done With Me), The Runner, Wash Off, Black Bull, Like Lightning, Into The Surf, Neptune