Oxford trio’s dance-infused seventh album takes them somewhere they’ve not been before
Foals have become one of the UK’s biggest bands over the course of their six albums to date, with their biggest asset being frontman Yannis Philippakis’ dextrous guitaring skills that initially gave them the ‘math-rock’ tag. Following the acclaim for 2008 debut Antidotes, which undoubtedly ploughed this field, they further developed into a bigger beast with suitably meatier, anthemic ambitions, inevitably leading to a first UK number 1 album in Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (part 2) although, despite numerous rumours over the years, they have yet to headline Glastonbury, an obvious indicator of just how big an artist has become.
Seventh studio LP Life Is Yours, however, is something of an anomaly. Imagine a snowball surging down the side of a snow-capped mountain, gathering pace and size as it travels along and you’ve got some idea of how their career has gone to date. But instead of continuing its ever-increasing pace, this snowball has now slowed, perhaps having surpassed its top speed as the ground beneath it begins to lose its gradient. The signs were there before, but with its new dance-infused core, Foals have ended up somewhere they’ve not been before and many would argue somewhere they don’t belong.
Described by Philippakis as the “poppiest record we’ve ever made”, there’s little let up in the dancey vibe, coming over like a child with a new toy. It is, however, admirable that such positive energy generated throughout Life Is Yours exists at all, seeing that it was created during the huge negativity of winter lockdown.
The title track opens the album to a soon-to-be-familiar template where glitzy pop glistens to create a dance track; here, staccato synths and clickety-clack percussion stand out as the catalysts but elsewhere it’s different. Single Wake Me Up features similarly polished synths which are this time a key factor while a repetitive guitar riff comes at you again and again like a pestering wasp. “Dancing” is quoted numerous times in the lyrics too, as if we’re being instructed to realise this is what the track (and album in general) has been made for.
2001 sounds straight out of the cheesier side of the 1980’s but it’s all a little too repetitive this time as we are “waiting for the summer sky” – which then appears as a separately listed track, but is in fact (puzzlingly) just a 36 second lead out of 2001. The twinkling Flutter is uneventful, for once dancing feeling inappropriate as the beat slackens whilst Looking High goes down that cheesy route again; its chorus, though, surpasses the lacklustre verses like Mount Everest next to the South Downs – possibly two separate ideas stitched together?
A descending riff tries to carry Under The Radar singlehandedly but struggles to do so and The Sound’s weak foundations falter under the weight of more 80’s pop. Closer Wild Green’s bubbly, arpeggiated synths offer up one of the better efforts, though, where you do actually feel like you might be able to enjoy the track on the dancefloor. However, some way ahead of the rest are single 2am and Crest Of The Wave; the former creates a summery feel with its keys and impressive electric guitar riff while the latter comfortably finds itself by far and away the biggest highlight during the album’s second half.
Several producers have been involved with Life Is Yours but it would be hard to notice on sounds alone, the tracks mostly following the same theme quite closely. As there is little deviation, you wonder if the band had control with the various producers largely going along with what the band wanted rather than trying to exert their own influences over the record. Whilst it does work at times, Life Is Yours will probably find itself confined to the list of also-ran albums of 2022 as a whole but perhaps this particular itch has now been scratched and the snowball can soon regain its momentum and get Foals back on track to what we were looking forward to.