An old issue of NME has laid across a tall stack of books and magazines on the nightstand by my bed for months and months now. On its cover is a close-up, solo photograph of Foals lead singer Yannis Philippakis, standing there, staring straight ahead with that impossibly dark for being so short and stubbly of a beard. He has no reaction upon his face, just a blankness that does seem to play into the hand of the headlines that were portraying the making of the record as a nightmare. There were the dust-ups and the personal conflicts and heads butting. There was a group of people struggling to agree and the feisty Philippakis was supposed to be the main culprit. It took a long time to read the piece - not until after they'd visited us here in Rock Island for the second time - and it's not easy to buy into, but then again people can be different people so easily. If we were to take Philippakis strictly on the lyrics from the band's great sophomore album, "Total Life Forever," we'd be treated to a set of humble wonderment that has more to do with that restless place that resides in a man unsettled. It seems to stand that Philippakis is one of those people, of the sort to search and search for the right friends, the right lovers, the right scenarios and find out that what he's really looking for and what he'll continue to fail to find are the perfect friends, the perfect lovers and the perfect scenarios. It's a devastating kind of feeling, but it's one that keeps a body in that restless place and it's what drives some to madness. The material on "Total Life Forever" exposes us to these synopses, where a man is flailing and turning into a bunch of roadblocks and dead ends, so many that the sky feels like it's on fire in the same way that his head is. His head's on fire, his heart's on fire and everything that he touches gets spooked or turned to soot and ash. The band, from Oxford, England, makes music that feels like ocean, as if we're in slow motion, with our breath held underneath the surface, peacefully looking out at the depths below and the smudged and dancing lights above. Oh, and there's plenty of backbeat in there too, some dance and club kicked in for good measure and if it sounds like an odd description, that's not really a big deal. It's how we describe the way The Cure sounds too and there are some easy to hear similarities between these two bands. "Total Life Forever" seems to be an album that moves and shakes a little more than the group's debut, "Antidotes," does and yet we're pulled deeper into the inner-workings of Philippakis' unsettled mind, where we find ourselves hearing the fear a bit more. There's blood being given away. There is blood on hands and the people that we're hearing in these songs are fragile beings with some tattered wings and eyes. He sings on "After Glow," "Get up go and find everyone you care for/They won't be there to see you tomorrow/Get up don't forget everything you cared for/For it won't mean nothing more tomorrow," and we're submerged in the drowsy world of letting go and clutching to all of the tricky and slippery bits of importance that we've collected over time. Most will be lost and forgotten. Some could linger longer.
Foals Official Site
Sub Pop Records