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Music Review

Foals: 'Antidotes'

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Foals: 'Antidotes'
Released on Monday, Mar 24 2008

Sounding absolutely nothing like Arctic Monkeys, Amy Winehouse or The Libertines, Oxfordshire five-piece Foals were a daring pick on January's 'ones to watch in 08' lists. Made up of failed university students and ex-Math Rock pioneers The Edmund Fitzgerald, they're not destined to become Kooks-style pop pinups. In recent interviews they've promised to "play guitar in a different way" and claimed not to be "interested in fulfilling other people's expectations". Yet behind these hype-quelling tactics lies a group who are comfortable guest stars on Skins, happy to poke fun at themselves on MySpace - calling themselves "snotty art school dropouts hungry for the dollar" - and capable of sizzling live shows that left critics drooling. With the band wrapped up in so many strange contradictions, one tantalising question remains: what on earth does the album sound like?

Initial signs were worrying, with early singles 'Mathletics' and 'Hummer' dropped because they didn't fit within the rest of the LP. Luckily, fears that the album would consist of unlistenable computer glitches and self-indulgent guitar-twiddling are quickly banished once Foals launch into the sparse funk of first track 'The French Open'; built around a chanted slogan from French TV, it's utterly pretentious and ridiculously fun in equal measure. Followed by the taut, saxophone-savaging recent single 'Cassius' and trickling, dreamy electro of possible future hit 'Red Socks Pugie', Antidotes begins with the sort of bang you'd expect from a group with Foals' level of hype.

Yet, as we mentioned earlier, Foals ain't no ordinary band. For every Franz Ferdinand-esque indie-dance dabble, ('Balloons') there's an off-kilter, jazz-meets-prog rock instrumental moment ('Like Swimming'). While the deft mix of dueling guitars and slick, pulsating drums on 'Olympic Airways' will remind many of a slightly sedated Bloc Party, the cold, methodical guitar tussling on 'Two Steps Twice' and haunting shrieks of trumpet on 'Heavy Water' will have Hoosiers fans switching for the off button. The band's abstract lyrics are similarly objectionable to mainstream tastes, willfully refusing to be pinned down to any sort of definitive meaning. Actually, singer Yannis' words often work as musical tools, creating dips and edges in their jilting tunes, rather than functioning as a traditional story-telling device. Occasionally, he lets his mask slip, with lines like "Wasps nests in your head" ('Red Socks Pugie'), and "Crash down fury red, cracks in our hearts and heads" ('Big Big Love') hinting at an underlying sense of menace.

Too inventive and musically accomplished to get pigeon-holed, Antidotes will irritate those who regarded Foals as possible saviours from Razorlight blandness. This album is just too organic and devoid of pop sheen to capture your average Radio 2 listener or Brit Award judge. While they work a sound not a million miles away from other indie-dance cross-over acts (The Rapture, Franz, Bloc Party), Foals stick their necks out and flick two fingers at the idea of chart success. Ultimately, Antidotes is the sound of a band struggling to deal with the pressures heaped upon them by others, but, heartwarmingly, coming out fighting.

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