"Antidotes" by Foals

Foals
Antidotes

Sub Pop Records
2008

Review

...although I'll understand your reaction if you are a bit freaked out by the site of the outline of some gentleman's head with his mouth stuffed full of 'Antidotes'. I can't really defend the album cover as it is undeniably a horrible one. But I can recommend the music that it is supposed to represent - Rock-ish music that is constructed by taking a throw-everything-at-it approach that includes layer upon layer of various guitars, percussion and synthesizers that some how all do their own thing and yet still manage to come together in compelling and oh-so-listenable ways. Too bad about that cover though.

Starting from the beginning (a great place - nay, the only way - to start) with "The French" open will give us a chance to explore what Foals is about. It starts simply enough with a repeating guitar riff. Then the layers start coming in. Odd layers. Shades of mardi-gras? Then there's the singing itself. It's not so much singing as it is sort of group yelling. Like how the crowd might do at a college sporting event. I almost called it "Chumbawumba-esque" but then I remembered how much I don't like them...so let's stick with the group shouting thing.

One thing you'll notice on this album is that the music gets really crazy. It's all over the place. Some guitars doing one thing, the bass doing another, the drums frantically pounding, some playful keyboards playing in the background...it wouldn't seem that any of these elements when taken individually would actually help to complete the whole. But when it works (which thankfully is most of the album) and when the band is just going balls-out crazy with the music, not really trying too many things conceptually, just focused on having a good time - it's some insanely good time tunes.

So when does it work? For me the moment on the album that represents the make it or break it moment for the listener is "Olympic Airways". This for me is the highest of the high in terms of when Foals is good. It's all the layers coming in but in a controlled, nearly introspective manner. It's about the harmonies created by squeezing as many different sounds into as tight a space as possible. It's almost as if so much has gone into the music that there's little left for the lyrics though. There aren't so much lyrics here in the sense that you'll try to memorize them, write them down, or study them. It's more like just cool things to say that work with the sounds the band is making...with lots of repetition. Sometimes this is a very, very bad thing - like on "Cassius" where the the lyrics are literally "Cassius and accident! Accident!" repeated a bunch of times. But on songs like "Olympic Airways" the lyrics work in the context of the song.

Let's disappear until tomorrow
Let's disappear until tomorrow
Disappear
Disappear
Disappear


That's pretty basic on the page. But they sell it by the way they annunciate. I probably should have written "Disappear" as "DIS.APE.HE.ARE!!!!"

As I said before, when the band is just going ape-shit crazy, it's a lot of fun. Take "Two Steps, Twice". Here's another song about just lots and lots of musically layers heaped on top of one another until the pile of cards threatens to fall to the ground. Sure, it starts slow enough. But wait until the end. I mean, the lyrics may have not even been written in English. For the life of me I can't figure out what the heck they are saying (BAH-PAR-DA, BUH-PAR-DUH, DUT, DUUUUUUUH!), but I know that it's a lot of fun to yell along to it in the car when I'm stuck in traffic. In my listening notes to this song I said it sounds like guitars commingling with signals from space. I think that's fairly accurate.

The most accessible song on the album is probably "Balloons" which is catchy and infectious and a nicely toned down version of "ape-shit" crazy (shades of Oingo Boingo). Another standout is "Tron" which is sort of New Order-ish filtered through Foals unique cornucopia of sounds.

This record does not work when Foals take themselves too seriously ("Heavy Water") or when the random stuff going on in the background doesn't gel ("Mathletics"). I'd say listen to "Olympic Airways" and "Balloons" and it'll be pretty evident whether or not you are going to be into this. But if you don't mind very uptempo music with a few rock, dance, and ska accroutroments and aren't looking to find the meaning of life in the lyrics, then you'll dig Foals. Now find a few friends who also dig them and get together to shout along to the music!

4.083 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. The French Open (03:45) 4
2. Cassius (03:49) 3
3. Red Socks Pugie (05:15) 3
4. Olympic Airways (04:12) 5
5. Electric Bloom (04:54) 4
6. Balloons (03:01) 5
7. Heavy Water (04:32) 4
8. Two Steps Twice (04:39) 5
9. Big Big Love (Fig. 2) (05:47) 3
10. Like Swimming (01:58)
11. Tron (04:53) 5
12. [untitled] (00:59)
13. Hummer (02:54) 4
14. Mathletics (03:08) 4