Foals’ latest offering is less Holy Fire than damp squib


Unfortunately, after giving Holy Fire a good listen I don’t feel so much ignited with excitement, just a little burnt. 

Chances are, you’ve already heard the best of what Holy Fire has to offer. The stand-out songs on the record are the two released as singles; Inhaler, and My Number. The remainder is a tad monotonous, and a wee bit flat – containing some bright moments, but ultimately lacking the spark of Total Life Forever (TLF). 

Diagnosis? Despite trying hard, it lacks inventiveness. Prognosis? It doesn’t, nor will it ever, meet the high standards set by TLF. As an example, the exclusive playback of the album in a derelict mental asylum in Peckham, although intended as arty, was about as edgy as a drag on a candy cigarette.

Perhaps my analogy is a tad harsh, but it just seems lazy and a little complacent. Holy Fire is almost an amalgamation of the first and second records, Antidotes and TLF. The poppy synth-led rhythms combined with the more dulcet, haunting tones is somewhat akin to Duran Duran at a funeral. Those unfamiliar with the band wouldn’t be blamed if they thought Holy Fire was the bands second LP – some tracks are stale enough to be a TLF b-side.  

This, I believe, is the key issue. TLF was such a great record and Holy Fire fails to build on that and most certainly doesn’t surpass it. The expectation that came with Foals’ previous work has ultimately left me unsatisfied and disappointed. As an album, viewed in isolation, it’s not bad, but in TLF’s shadow it will remain.

However, even average albums have stand-out tracks, and as alluded to above, these come in the form of Inhaler, My Number, and one I haven’t mentioned, Providence. 

Inhaler genuinely was a breath of fresh air when it first received air-time. If this was where this record was heading I was preparing to book a one way ticket. Guitar distortion, strained quasi-screaming vocals, and even a quirky opening made the first single a tailor-made recipe for a promising new musical direction. If the rest of the album had even one iota of this unquantifiable resource, hell we’d have been on to something, really something.

Straight afterwards, My Number is a significant swerve in the road introduced by Inhaler. Funky and insanely catchy, this dance-y number has found a permanent residence in my head. This track is an invitation to the squat party in your cerebral cortex and will not only have you throwing shapes (I won’t be listening to it in the gym again…) but humming the tune. Alot – like a funky disease.

Providence is an intriguing fusion of soulful blues vocals and what sounds like the hangover of an Antidotes track. Think a math-rock Robert Johnson.Think Yannis Philipakis busking in the Mississippi Delta. This innovative blend of two polarised musical styles: the emotion-driven blues, and the patterns and rhythmic structures of math-rock, makes this one of the most exciting and refreshing tracks on the record.

So not all is lost, Holy Fire has some great tracks, yet largely it remains a disappointment. The three  mentioned above are as diverse, and as Foals-y as you’d like; the rest is just unimaginative polyfiller plugging the spaces in-between. The Foals fix we needed was a new and innovative remedy to a stagnant music library, not a repeat prescription to something we’re too used to.

For the published article at MouthLondon, please click here.

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