Compact Review: Foals’ What Went Down

Foals – What Went Down
Released: August 28, 2015

Rating: 87/100

The title track opens the band’s fourth album with ferocious guitar riffs, howling vocals and a progressive bone rattling escalation of aggression. The following track, “Mountain At My Gates”, blends spooky minor chords with a gorgeous chorus and an even more electric build than “What Went Down”.  Through the first nine minutes of What Went Down, Foals might be the best rock band in the world.

These two tracks show off Foals most impressive, possibly contradictory traits. At the heart of Foals best music is a primal rawness that fuels their massive riffs and provides the teeth and the tension to their sound. However, their feral side contrasts sharply against the band’s other defining characteristic: a cool, calculating approach to composition and arrangement. When in balance, Foals are unbeatable.

Their third album Holy Fire showed flashes of brilliance and hinted at Foals ceiling. What Went Down approaches this ceiling, but ultimately falls just short. Foals seem capable of making an album that alters the course of rock history and I really thought What Went Down might be that record. It is not. This is Foals’ best album yet but it isn’t the Earth shattering recording it could have been. Tracks like “Albatross” and “Lonely Hunter” sound like Coldplay B-Sides and while there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that, Foals just seem like they are capable of so much more.

This is a record that works best when it leans precariously over the edge. The delicate madness of “London Thunder”, the crackling distortion of “Snake Oil” and the tender yearning of “A Knife In The Ocean” all sound like a band on the threshold of a major breakthrough. What Went Down almost captures that perfect thing I look for in music. It’s unique in sound, wildly passionate in execution and 70% percent transcendent. It quickens my pulse, raises the hair on my arms and strengthens my belief in this band. What Went Down is a fantastic, though uneven record that feels like another step in the steady ascent of Foals.

Top Tracks: “What Went Down”, “Mountain At My Gates”, “A Knife In The Ocean”

One comment

  • Great compact review. Brilliant group and I’ve only begun exploring their music. We witnessed them live recently and we were blown away. They were opening for Cage the Elephant and Silversun Pickups. Foals stunned the audience. They definitely won a ton of new fans that night.

    Liked by 1 person

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