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Album Review: Foals - Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Pt. 1


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Foals return with their best album since 2010’s Total Life Forever in the first of two records planned for release in 2019. It’s more danceable, more melodic and mathier than anything the band has put out in recent years.

Album art 'Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Pt. 1' (2019)

Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Pt. 1 dispenses with the posturing aggression of What Went Down and cuts out the washed out vagueness that Holy Fire introduced into the band’s sound in 2013; the result is far from streamlined, but it feels like this album generally has more focus despite belonging to a collection of what’s likely to be around 20 songs in total.

The album begins with brooding synth pads over which distant vocals ebb in and out on ‘Midnight’. Bird song ascends and fades away and is joined by guitar arpeggios as Yannis Philippakis sings, “I walked into the desert of the dawn”.

‘Exits’, the album’s lead single, follows this and starts with a de-tuned honky-tonk style piano which is abruptly cut off bombastic snare hits before we launch straight into the main groove of the song whose stop-start nature plays on the rests to create an irresistible core of the track. Countering this is Philippakis’s strong vocal melody, but the best part of the song is the last minute and a half where the instrumentation drops out and then gradually builds back up for a coda embellished with inventive drum flourishes, mounting synths and a counterpoint guitar line.

After the frantic pace of ‘White Onions’ and the ridiculously danceable ‘In Degrees’ comes ‘Syrups’ where the band cool down somewhat with a measured bassline backed by sparse metallic drums. The lyrics come through much more clearly than is often the case on a Foals track, but this isn’t necessarily to this song’s advantage, with such vacuous platitudes as, “If the devil wants me/ Tell him I got high/ Cos life’s what you make it/You got yours and I got mine”.

Following the supremely catchy ‘On The Luna’ with its gorgeous synth tone and humorous satirical lyrics is ‘Cafe D’Athens’. It opens boldly with full-bodied marimba, which cannot but sound a bit like a ringtone these days. Underneath this, a snare drum shuffles and Foals show their math rock origins in the groove’s strange, engaging rhythm.

The interlude ‘Surf Pt. 1’ with its stately bass and quasi-cinematic synth strings bridges the gap towards ‘Sunday’, which very much sounds like a 90s shoegaze anthem you can’t quite put your finger on, with the difference being that you can actually make out the vocals. At six minutes though, the track picks up at the halfway mark and becomes something more original, introducing wub-wub synth grumbles during a dance-punk bridge. However, it quickly returns to the indulgence that makes up the bulk of the song. Granted, it sounds massive, but it doesn’t really say anything.

Tying the piece together is the last track ‘I’m Done With The World (& It’s Done With Me)’ which is the closest thing Foals could have to a piano ballad.  The “foxes” motif that was introduced on ‘Syrups’ reappears here but instead of “howl[ing]” they are “dead in the garden” and “the hedges are on fire in the country lanes”.

The first of Foals' 2019 double bill certainly whets the appetite for the second half; it trims the fat that had grown around the band’s sound after 2013, which makes for a far more compelling listening experience. Despite some naff lyrical moments and the somewhat unoriginal ‘Sunday’, the album comes across as refreshing and colourful and is a welcome addition to the discography.

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