Foals’ Holy Fire is One Big Letdown

Posted by Greg on Feb 13, 2013 in Music |

For the last half-decade, many have told me to listen to said British band. Being the curmudgeon that I am, I refused. I figured I’d go to the band on my own when I felt ready. As it happens, their new album Holy Fire was sent over and so I decided to listen. I guess now I felt ready (whatever that means). So, three listens. Time for a verdict.

All I can say right now is over-freaking-rated.

Some albums make an impact from the first go, others take awhile. Being that the band is loosely labeled as math-rock, I figured maybe a couple more spins would pack a wallop.

Yeah, not so much.

Lead single “Inhaler” is urgent, soaring and coasts on skittering guitars and a giant chorus. Album opener “Prelude,” is awesome but really it’s just a band jamming in a rehearsal space and shaking off the cobwebs. Second single “My Number,” is danceable but goes nowhere near the tremendous heights I thought it would. “Out of the Woods” is a fine piece of work that pretty much goes nowhere and says very little. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather hear Coldplay’s Chris Martin singing about “being in the clouds” and “out of the woods.” “Stepson,” in many ways feels like “Out of the Woods” redux and comes across as far too self-indulgent to be worth its merit.

Yannis Philippakis is a fine frontman and has all the verve and swagger of stadium headliner but something about him just doesn’t work. It’s probably the simpleton in me but I would just love to hear this dude with just some simple arrangements. The music itself is so busy I have trouble deciphering most of the lyrics. The gorgeous should-be single “Bad Habit,” is proof of this. There’s a definite swing towards Young the Giant (YTG) but whereas with YTG, vocalist Sameer Gadhia would never allow the busyness of his music to overdo his far-reaching vocals. Philippakis seems to be okay letting his voice take a backseat and on a song like “Bad Habit,” that feels like a giant mistake.

The album’s best songs are the more restrained efforts. The haunting and hypnotic “Late Night,” the deeply pained “Moon,” the gorgeous valentine “Milk and Black Spiders,” and the slow-rolling “Everytime.” One of the album’s finest moments is the searing freak-out “Providence,” which finds the band firing on all cylinders, but why in God’s name it is buried towards the end of the album is anyone’s guess. The song has more kick and grit than pretty much anything else on the disc.

Track sequencing can always be a tricky thing but in the case of Holy Fire, I’m not sure it would even make a difference. The band has all the tools to be amazing, Holy Fire just never sees those tools come to life. Many may swear by them and England sure as heck loves them, but this American finds it all a bit too underwhelming. I wanted stallions and I got foals. Should’ve known from the start. The name said it all.

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