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Foals: What Went Down review

Foals’ latest release, “What Went Down,” is sure to surprise any fans that grew to expect a certain sound from them.

On their third album, “Holy Fire,” songs were undoubtedly upbeat. When lead-singer Yannis Philippakis told NME that that album was “stinky” with groove, he wasn’t wrong. This time around, however, Philippakis said that songs on “What Went Down,” are some of  “the most savage and animalistic songs [they have] ever done.” He recalled playing the title track live and feeling “predatory…like [they were] on a hunt or something.”

Though it’s not unusual for a band to change their sound, it is difficult to believe that a group like Foals, who were only 1,000 copies short of “Holy Fire” reaching the number one spot on the UK’s Official Albums Chart, would head in a direction so different from what they previously had success with.

What’s missing on “What Went Down” are the catchy, funky beats that defined “Holy Fire.” Instead, Foals have taken to more of a rock-centric sound unlike anything they have produced before. The only evidence of their “Holy Fire” days can vaguely be heard in the second and third tracks of the album, “Mountain At My Gates” and “Birch Tree.”

Though “What Went Down” doesn’t push one to dance quite like “Holy Fire” did, there are still opportunities to move around to the earthy beat. Following “Birch Tree” on the album is “Give It All,” a song that inexplicably sounds dreamy, with a constant drum beating in the background, almost to the tune of a dancer’s footsteps. The drums are occasionally embellished by cymbals, and it is clear that Foals put more of an emphasis on conveying raw emotion through their music on this album. Contrarily, in their previous work, every feeling was captured with words.

Overall, this album does take on an animalistic quality because of how little Foals held themselves back in production. Every song is unapologetic, and the edgy quality of “Snake Oil” and “Night Swimmers” in particular are the best representations of this.

The passion that can only be captured when one lets go is exhibited in this album, but even still, the note on which Foals end “What Went Down” allows them to produce even more impactful content in the future. In the concluding track, “A Knife In the Ocean,” the music that Foals put all of their effort into strengthening gets louder until it overpowers Philippakis’ voice, even when he’s screaming, until it peters out, signifying the end of an album that has inevitably changed Foals’ career.