What Went Down is the latest album by Foals. It was released on the 28th August on Transgressive Records and is the 4th studio album by the band. The band followed the release by doing a surprise set at this year’s Reading and Leeds Festival on the NME/BBC Radio 1 stage on Saturday in the early afternoon. I managed to hear the set (and see it from the screens and watch only the last few minutes of it properly) from the Catfish and the Bottlemen signing tent queue at Reading Festival and from what I heard they were something pretty spectacular. The whole queue especially enjoyed a sing along to “My Number”!
The album opens with the title track. The song “What Went Down” is powerful and punchy and opens up the album perfectly as it leaves a lasting impression of excitement on the listener as to what’s to come. What Went Down is a song which announces the return and comeback of Foals. It is simply stating that Foals are back and with some sort of mission. It gives the album a clear sense of direction from the offset. The song is catchy as the end of the song is captivating. It’s repetitive and builds up to a point of total suspense leaving the listener wanting more. It was the first song released from the album.
The song is followed by the band’s latest single “Mountain at My Gates”. It is arguably quite heavy in comparison to some of their other songs; however, it is extremely likeable. It is easy to see why this was chosen as a single as it’s catchy and the words “There’s a mountain at my gates”, from the chorus, linger around in your head for a while.
This is followed by “Birch Tree”, “Give It All” and “Albatross”. Birch Tree is one of the stronger songs on the album. Its sweet lyrics hold a natural theme which matches the cool and synthy music. Again, Give it All also holds a synthy vibe which is complemented by vast drums. Similarly, Albatross holds this vibe too. The lyrics rhyme (especially at the start of the song) and follow a similar pattern throughout the making it tantalizing for the ears. I like this song.
“Snake Oil” is upbeat. It’s got bite. It opens up with perhaps rockier riffs and Yannis Philippakis (lead singer) singing “oooh yeah” over and over. It’s exhilarating. It’s one of the rockier songs on the album, even more so than “What Went Down” and “Mountain at my Gates”. It’s heavily laced with guitars and drums and this is perhaps detaching from some of the more traditional Foals songs. However, I like this; it’s different. It keeps the album exciting and fresh as it breaks up songs which can often sound similar. It proves Foals’ diversity in their style. It’s one of the album’s highlights for me.
“Night Swimmers”, “London Thunder” and “Lonely Hunter” follow this. Night Swimmers uses faster drumming patterns and clapping sounds to give it a feel of exoticness and even gives it a dancier feel. It talks frequently about “blue” items in the lyrics. London Thunder is a slow track. It’s calming and simplistic. It offers a traditional slow song to the album. This is followed by Lonely Hunter which is a nice song. Its lyrics and music fit in with the rest of the album.
The final song on the album is “A Knife in the Ocean”. It’s just less than 7 minutes long and it’s an ending which makes the listener excited for what’s to come in the future for the band. It signs the album off in a way they want to be remembered by. It’s triumphant and showcases a lot of Foals’ impeccable musical variety and skills as musicians and lyricists.
Foals’ music is extremely interesting to listen to. Its instrumental side reveals many layers which makes the music exciting and also easy to listen to. You could listen to these songs many times unpicking finely each layer as though you were dissecting it in a school lab and you’d uncover an extremely well thought out and well structured piece of music. This coincides with the, sometimes bitter sweet and invariably optimistic, lyrics sung by Yannis.
There are many highlights to this album but I particularly liked the songs “Mountain at my Gates”, “Birch Tree”, “Snake Oil” and “Night Swimmers”.
Overall I think “What Went Down” by Foals is a success and leaves the listener excited to see where this takes the band next. No doubt they will tour off the back of this album (and also off the back of their Reading and Leeds Festival secret sets- perhaps even coming back to play the festival next year). Hopefully next year we’ll see Foals high up on festival bills as this album is a great success and it’s refreshingly current and unique.