Foals ‘Total Life Forever’ – Review

24 May

‘Total Life forever’ is such a typical second album that in a future encyclopedia of rock under the heading ‘Second Album’ they will just have a picture of this. Foals have corrected the faults of their debut, ‘Antidotes’, and in the process they have made a record that is more consistent but less distinctive, more experimental but less radio friendly, less filler but fewer stand out moments – not any worse or any better, just different. If you want comparisons from recent years see ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’, ‘Sam’s Town’, ‘Empire’ or more recently ‘Contra’ and ‘Congratulations’.

The main criticism I had with their debut was the lack of emotion. Everything was so considered and dry, and whilst the lyrics were articulate and interesting they just didn’t connect with me. This is the first fault that they have corrected. Whilst the band are never going to be heart on the sleeve types, ‘Total Life Forever’ is a lot warmer and more inviting in both the sound and the lyrics. ‘Blue Blood’, the album’s opener is a good example of this as is first single ‘Spanish Sahara’. The lyrics are less ambiguous and more personal and this is also change for the better.

The second biggest criticism of the debut was that their complicated time signatures, rectangular riffs and spiky chants got in the way of just letting the listener have a good time. They are an Oxford band and this was definitely music for some intelligent university mathematician. This fault (if you saw it as one) has also been fixed, as ‘Miami’ shows with it’s bouncy rhythms and almost funky guitars. That they have loosened up with out loosing their unique charm is entirely to their credit.

The third criticism with the debut was that it didn’t flow very well. It’s highlights all came very early on, and I had lost patience after about track six. This is still a minor problem with ‘Total Life Forever’ but less so. This time they do save some of the highlights for the second half even if there is still a small unbalance in terms of quality.

Overall ‘Total Life Forever’ is a very solid second offering from the band. The front cover shows the band immersed in water – appropriate as the album takes a while to sink in. After a few listens the album really does sound fantastic though. There is no real highlight that you would mention above any other which is a sign that they have made a real album that unfolds over eleven tracks. At the same time there isn’t anything even approaching the genius of ‘Cassius’, ‘Balloons’ or ‘Mathletics’, although I would suggest that is the price we pay for the new, more consistent Foals.



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