The music press has a way of over-hyping bands. In their review of Foals introductory release, 2008s Antidotes, NME referred to the young band as the new Radiohead reminding everyone, Radioheads first album was not The Bends but Pablo Honey. Time is telling and such grand assertions rarely work out. Such is the case for Foals. Their second album, Total Life Forever is an impressive effort, but nothing remarkable as once hoped/predicted.
Trying to categorize Foals is a strange task, not because they defy categorization but because they are, in essence, typical UK indie rock. Its indie rock that comes solely from other indie rock, indie infused indie rock if you will. The sound is reminiscent of Antidotes; tight guitars rummaging in 4/4, layers of production, repetitive rifts that steadily build, and a lyrical theme that questions the trappings of modern society. But where the first album was laced with interesting, veritable, and compelling ideas, Total Life Forever gets bogged down in the rigor of its technicality, over run by its production.
Foals take their music seriously, at times bordering on over-ambitious or obsessive. Tracks like Alabaster and Spanish Sahara offer fine guitar work, but nothing for the listener to latch onto other than feelings of bland or bleak. The tracks where they loosen up and add touches of funk (Total Life Forever, This Orient) benefit greatly from it.
Other bright patches come by the way of Blue Blood and Black Gold. The former offering lengths of compounding fret work before giving way to a spacious bridge where lead singer Yannis Philippakis yells I dont know how. The latter applying an exotic rhythm over a minimalist bass line that will keep the listener bobbing their head until the final, forceful crescendo.
When dealing with hype, bands often sacrifice authenticity for popular appeal. There are moments on Total Life Forever where they sound near identical to the likes of Bloc Party, Phoenix, or Robin Pecknold - artists that have been successful in generating buzz — presumably in attempt to capitalize on what might be popular. They even drop clichés about technology, singularity is here to stay, like we havent heard it before.
Keep in mind; the members of Foals are still in their early to mid-twenties. Often time, young bands have to go through a period of gestation. The composition and craftsmanship on this album impress. The musicianship is respectable, the musicians technically proficient, and ridiculous comparisons aside, they probably have a good album or two in their future.