Foals ditch first mix for ‘Antidotes’

By Gus Bode

Foals

“Antidotes”

Release date: April 8, 2008

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Record label: Sub Pop

www.wearefoals.com

3 out of 5 stars

When the Foals originally settled down to record their debut album, “Antidotes,” they chose David Sitek of TV on the Radio as a producer.

But the band decided it wasn’t quite satisfied enough, and decided to remix the album, getting rid of what band members decided was too “spacey” and releasing an album completely full of their own ideas.

“Antidotes” is an interesting m’eacute;lange of ideas, so much so that the opening chords of the album are a little deceiving.

With horns blaring, the British five-piece quickly breaks into a segregated version of energetic dance-punk and ska on “The French Open,” sounding something like a drugged and confused jam band.

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But as the album progresses, the experimental wave of British pop becomes more and more cleverly interesting. At times, the Foals mix the dance-punk rhythm of the Klaxons with sporadic bursts of ska horns and layered lyrics that are more orated than sung. The majority of the songs, however energetic, are more melodic and idealist.

“Antidotes” features songs as clean cut and normal as an indie pop song can be while also excelling on more experimental, airy and even straight up odd songs. The spacious “Like Swimming” bleeding into a robotic “Tron” is one example of the contrast, where a song laden with claps and heavy static clears the way for a melody of energetic indie pop on a completely different side of the musical spectrum.

The band knows how to make use of its guitars’ high frets. Every song has its own high-pitched uniqueness. On the more relaxing tracks it has a sedative, ambient effect, such as in “Olympic Airways” and “Heavy Water,” and on others it helps add to the energy.

After a while, though, the limitation on the guitar lines becomes a little obnoxious. The guitar has low frets for a reason, and the Foals don’t attempt to use them as skillfully as the others. When it comes to the bass, the approach is minimalistic but not underestimated. There are easily more skilled runs on the faster tracks, but it doesn’t disappear altogether on the more experimental ones.

Though the Foals take “Antidotes” to all sorts of different levels, the rhythmic energy never really takes a break. All of the songs are heavily percussive, and rightly so as it shows the band’s talent isn’t locked in great songwriting or guitar playing. As spacious and leveling as “Antidotes” is, it often does come off as pretty jam-band-esque.

The album’s lyrics are pretty hard to discern. It’s not a problem with the background noise, or the English accent, though neither of those help much. Andrew Mears’ vocals sound too boomy and under produced, and his style of singing isn’t really anything like singing. On faster tracks such as “Cassius” and “Balloons,” the album’s named and released singles, his words are rushed, which makes this problem worse.

The Foals’ music is interesting and original when it comes to the combination of elements, but wholly the band’s sound is nothing new. The beat to nearly every song is steady, rarely syncopated and varied in measure. The instruments don’t venture far from that formula either, rarely daring to step a little out of line to offer a fulfilling resolution at the end.

They do, however, end the album on that musical vice with “Tron” (other versions of the album have two bonus tracks: the energetic-funk “Mathletics” and the Block Party dance track “Hummer”), incorporating every piece of musical talent into one five-minute masterpiece. There’s the choral singing, the steady adrenaline of the bass, the alleviated incongruity of rhythm and the usual, high-pitched guitar, a great combination for one heck of an outro.

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