You know those bands that you used to like in high school that seem to have lost their resonance now that you’re a twenty-something?
Foals is not exactly a poster…band for this phenomenon. But I’m a fanatic for most anything under the math rock umbrella. And even though Foals tend to stick to 4/4, they were one of the figureheads of the late 00s movement, along with Battles, and I was a huge fan of both in high school and beyond. Their debut album, Antidotes, seems to have lost some of the impact it had in 2008. But Foals have grown with me. They’re one of those bands that can reinvent themselves with every album, yet still retain the elements that made you like them in the first place.
It seems that Holy Fire has been a divisive album for fans of the band. Unfortunately, it seems to be for the wrong reasons. Antidotes was a ball of energy. Total Life Forever was a sprawling progressive epic (for the most part). Holy Fire is almost a pop album. It contains elements of the other two albums, but these increased pop sensibilities seem to have upset a lot of fans. The style is done well, though, so I have no patience for these sorts of critiques. The band is expanding their style. One may not like the new direction, but that doesn’t make this album any worse than their previous efforts, it just means that you like it less. The objective quality of art has nothing to do with subjective sentiment.
A microcosm of the entire album comes in the form of lead single “Inhaler”. It opens up with energy and a riff very reminiscent of Antidotes, coated with a very Total Life Forever bass rhythm. The track as a whole, however, has a very traditional structuring. It’s an obvious choice as a single.
Holy Fire is a very solid, tight album. The tracks generally follow the aesthetics of “Inhaler”, but each is uniquely memorable. Unfortunately, it lacks some of the atmosphere created in a “Spanish Sahara”. But this isn’t just because the album leans towards pop. Antidotes featured a lot of short, catchy tracks, but the riffs and structuring were more interesting. Just because this album is accessible doesn’t mean it should be boring. And it’s not, but it doesn’t grab the listener like Foals has in the past. Still, the band certainly deserves praise for not releasing the same album every couple of years.