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Review: Foals – Holy Fire

By River Reporter Feb 4, 2013

Oxford five-piece and ‘math-rockers’ Foals releases their much anticipated third album Holy Fire, but does it live up to all its hype?

Caroline Bursell
If you haven’t heard of Oxford five-piece and Mercury Prize nominees Foals, a wise prediction would be to say that you will – and much sooner rather than later. After a torturous two-year wait from their latest champion release Total Life Forever, fans are treated to a matured sound from the once dubbed ‘math-rocker’ band, and the production quality of Holy Fire has skyrocketed, proving that patience surely is a virtue.
It can be said that a caterpillar-to-butterfly metamorphosis has been made (or the obvious foal-to-stallion, if you’re not an insect person). It is the kind of metamorphosis that leaves them fluttering into arena shows, but what if the caterpillar quality in all its flawed, awkward glory was what we loved most about them?
“I can’t get enough space”
Following a dramatic, ambient prelude, Foals set themselves up for a comeback in the form of first single Inhaler. As recounted by lead singer Yannis Philippakis, the track is written about none other than the London tube and its accompanying claustrophobia, with a demented and fascinatingly twisted music video to match. The music taps into familiar sensation well, its antic guitar sounds a welcome alternative to tapping your fingers in impatience, and it’s a challenge not to belt the chorus line “I can’t get enough space”. A future anthem in its own right, you don’t have to be into maths to like this rock.
Keep both earbuds in for My Number, the album’s second monster triumph debuted on Later.. With Jools Holland, a lighter track with playful guitar that charms much in the way of Two Door Cinema Club and is carried by a drum beat that is downright infectious. By the time the track has chimed to an end, it feels like the butterfly has already extended its vibrant wings.
Second best
The rest of Holy Fire may, however, have long-time fans missing their friend the caterpillar, with tracks lacking climax and arguable depth. Bad Habit sounds like the soundtrack to a festival highlights video, which will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy but not much else. Late Night, Stepson and Moon are deep hums compared to Inhaler and Providence’s rampant highs, and while each remaining track pulses with indie hit potential and sheer musical luxury, the almost shallow beauty of it becomes repetitious. 
Dropping the enigmatic themes of their former work, Foals have packaged an impeccably produced third album featuring instead the increasingly mainstream language of love and friendship, a tender successor that sounds great but lacks power. Foals have in no way given us a deadbeat collection of eleven songs, but first time listeners will feel most inclined to only download singles Inhaler and My Number. 
Holy Fire will be available to purchase for £7.99 from iTunes or £8.99 from Amazon on February 11th.

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