Back in the heady days of 2007, it might have been tempting to think that Foals leapt onto the stage fully-formed. Here was a band with a distinct sound, partying with the Skins kids and practically owning the cover of NME as the go-to hipster name-check band. As the release of their first LP approached, many people expected an album which would pithily express the energies of the band in the same way as the debuts of The Strokes or Arctic Monkeys.
Wisely, they fucked off to Sweden and evolved their sound, recording the bare bones of songs which would make up their second LP. The result was the magnificent Total Life Forever, an album which had many of the same recognisable musical qualities as Antidotes but used them in a way which yielded better results; the songs were melodically orientated, emotionally invested, and often (as in the climaxes of ‘Blue Blood’ and ‘Spanish Sahara’), utterly transcendent.
Three years down the line, and their musical evolution continues with their third offering, Holy Fire. Upon first impression, the ambient textures and swelling choruses seem more reminiscent of the Foals of 2010 than 2008, but repeated listening will reveal an album which actually finds a better expression of all the incarnations of their sound. Some heavier sections in ‘Prelude’, ‘Inhaler’ and the superb ‘Providence’ articulate the raw energy of their live shows far better than the studio recordings of ‘Balloons’ or ‘Two Steps, Twice’; the unashamedly pop hooks which appear in ‘Cassius’ and ‘Miami’ sit more comfortably in ‘My Number’ and ‘Everytime’. The songs still bear many of the trademarks of Foals’ sound (the layering of riffs in ‘Prelude’, the bass-line groove of ‘Inhaler’, the percussive guitar of ‘Bad Habit’), but combine them in a way which makes the songs on Holy Fire the band’s most cogent and well-written yet. The best moments here are easily the equal of anything they have done, like the astounding ‘Late Night’, the genuinely anthemic ‘Milk and Black Spiders’, and the hauntingly beautiful closer ‘Moon’.
In all, Holy Fire is simply a fantastic modern album. Not only is it Foals’ best LP, but probably the best expression yet of what the band is about.
Foals’ Holy Fire is out now from Transgressive Records