With so much hype around Foals through the beginning of year ‘most likely’ lists, it seems strange to still be talking about the band’s debut release. Having been dubbed as the emperor’s new clothes, they have an awful lot to live up to on Antidotes – and in the most part they pull off an original first album.
For starters it is immediately clear that this is not your average ‘indie dance’ music, if it is indeed anything near that. No plodding rhythms and over-produced guitars here, no vocals that sound as if they’ve been processed through damp socks. No, this record contains sprightly, upfront rhythms, bright instrumentation and elastic bass lines.
The whole effect is thoroughly affirming, the music reaching for the heights with stellar guitar lines reflecting off each other and lyrics that wouldn’t sound out of place in the Hacienda.
Just occasionally the impression comes through that the band have tried too hard to achieve this sustained high, and, for all its catchy tunes and urgency, Cassius falls into that category, the vocals just a bit too mannered.
More revealing and natural is the reverie Olympic Airways, its lazy guitar harmonics and subtle four to the floor workings gradually building in substance. Balloons, on the other hand, begins with startling confidence, quickly building the adrenalin with its rushing guitar counterpoint – Steve Reich would briefly approve – and hurrying, athletic bass line. It’s the thrill of music at its most urgent and rhythmic.
The band’s instrumentation has a big part to play. Alongside the guitars a saxophone offers counter melodies or mellow colour on The French Open, while wispy violin strings grace the tremolo guitars as Olympic Airways begins. And yes, The French Open is a song about tennis, written by a band from Tim Henman’s home town! The character similarity, perhaps thankfully, ends there.
But is all this enough for us to grant the Oxford quintet the next best thing status? Not entirely. But they do make thoroughly exciting music that becomes quickly airborne, able to move the listener to a different plane with disarming ease. And you can’t say that readily about many bands.