Earlier this year, UK indie rock outfit Foals released part one of their two-album series, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost. Since the album’s release in March, Foals have popped up at every summerly gathering from Glastonbury to Truck Festival to promote Part 1 and its various singles, and announced that a documentary of their studio sessions and 2019 World Tour was in the works and due for screening at the Doc’N’Roll Film Festival in London this month (as of this writing, it’s three days away).
In the meantime, they’ve coughed up Part 2 of this climate-conscious urban fixie-rock saga, jetting off of the strength of a few singles to the top of the U.K charts. It’s the first time in Foals history that one of their albums debuted at #1, certainly a remarkable feat worth celebration as the boys head into the new decade with a whirlwind of momentum behind them. Despite the sunshine Foals are currently floating on, the question is in the air whether Yannis Philippakis’s outlook on current happenings has got any brighter; especially given his statement that Part 2 “exists in the wreckage” of Part 1.
The sweeping, ethereal organs on “Red Desert” certainly don’t give the impression of an upward-looking vibe this time around, it is almost resemblant to the soundtrack one would hear unnervingly walking around in an ancient crypt. From there, it bursts into “The Runner”, an infectious, grooving tune that turns the gloomy preface of the cathedral organ on its head by resiliently declaring “If I fall down… then I know to keep on running.” It could either be a statement of carrying on in the face of a decaying planet, or less likely, running from the decay itself. Given how unflinching much of Part 1 was from politics and the environment, we can assume safely that this is a vow to survive and find one’s way at all costs in spite of all the threatening madness around them. “Wash Off” kicks up the pace even more, driving more headlong into the calculated chaos that defined Part 1 so eloquently and lyrically conveying far more of a fuck-it-all attitude than before: “Don’t you even think of me/Cause I’ll be free beyond the levee/All that’s left is a ghost machine.”
Casting away the vibe of wary treading and paranoid, mathematical grooves of rank-and-file Foals, “Black Bull” explodes into a cocksure rage centred around life on tour- the opening lyric “I got to rip up the road” providing the name for the band’s forthcoming documentary “Rip Up The Road.” If “Black Bull” was the inevitable breaking of the fever pitch of the Lost doubleheader, “Like Lightning” is its distinguished, driving pulse, slathering swagger-dipped dance grooves with thought-provoking concerns about the mightiest mother of all: “I’ve seen that sky collapse/I’ve heard that thunder clap/I’ve seen that lighting crack/I know my way home.” “Dreaming Of” continues to keep it air-tight, building up the tension and releasing it over the edge at exactly the right time to keep the track, and album at large tasty and dynamic; atmospheric and heady at times yet firmly grounded in reality.
Following out of the piano interlude “Ikaria”, “10,000 Feet” threatens to venture into conventional rock fare with its straight-ahead metallic drums, bursting guitar and rolling bass- the only thing maintaining a necessary contrast of course being Philippakis’s distinct voice to balance things off from going too mainstream. The raw power and ecological allegories of “Feet” give way, first, to tropical ambience, then to “Into the Surf”, a continuation of the brief interlude “Surf, Part 1” off Part 1. The comparatively mellowed number plays off like exactly the type of number one would listen to while ocean waves crash under the moon, but according to Philippakis the lyrical matter is more about death than relaxation. Let these lines make no mistake of this: “If I don’t make it home/Wrap the jasmine ‘round my bones/Garland in the sea/A blood moon for me.”
Rounding out the record is the 10-minute, winding epic “Neptune”, a meandering musing on attempting to escape mortality and a joint that like “10,000 Feet” falls on the heavier side of the Foals catalogue. The track was continually teased (and partially leaked) leading up to Part 2’s release, and it certainly was worth the wait- the final burst of life just shy of 9 minutes that blows to pieces to the words “come take me away” is a quintessential end to a quintessential end, capping off one of Foals’ most expansive and impressive efforts, and the 2010s, in style.
Foals have proven themselves through the Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost albums to be a thinking, conscious, calculated, contagious and entertaining band all in one, solidifying their role as progenitors of the soundtrack for the young urban-dwelling generation. This record in particular shines through as a vigorous work of art, serving as a damning indictment of a crumbling human existence while marking out an artistic cut above the rest making it. By the standard set here, whatever they drop next is sure to be a jolly good gem- providing there’s still an earth to record and release on when that time comes.