First Listen Review: Foals – “What Went Down”

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The Good: This album takes a few listens to get involved with. On first listen, the single “What Went Down” sounds as if it lost the distinctive sound Foals’s guitar has. However, this song grows on the listener. The guitar does take a step back across this album, but the approach it has taken sounds a lot like Arctic Monkey’s Favourite Worst Nightmare where simplicity often led to a nice mellow touch. Both this album and that one from 2007 have the guitar simply plant a chord down softly on certain beats without strumming every second of the song. For a late summer album where folks find themselves sitting at BBQs saying goodbye to the heat as the final sunsets of vacation dwindle away, the pleasant appeal of these songs fits nicely.

The album here moves closer to songs from their last album, specifically “Milk & Black Spiders”. The drums are less dance rock, apart from “Mountain At My Gates”, but they are still an important part of the songs and find themselves playing through a diverse set of styles across the LP. The album as a whole is not as brilliant as their first two, I will always miss their math rock days and the way they moved it into poppier grounds on Total Life Forever. However, this album beats the last one which to me seemed badly organized. For instance, slow songs are more evenly spread out on this album while the last one had them thrown in at the end. For a band raised on feet stomping tunes, listeners may have ignored these songs at the end in the sadness that Foals had betrayed their roots. With these slower songs at different times across this new album, they fit more nicely with the others.

The Bad: At times, this album seems Foals have become too accustomed to their style. There is little experimentation and I worry whether the album will grow dull after many listens since it’s style reminds me of the way Linkin Park went ten years ago when they ditched their louder sound for something soft and radio friendly. This album certainly sounds like Foals, but sometimes the songs sound too blockish, a far distance away from the zigzagging of their older material.

Would I Listen Again: Yes

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