Ever since their 2008 breakout record, Antidotes, Foals has been getting some attention across the globe. Their dance-powered math-rock was something that could be seen playing at both a dance club and a hipster’s record player. On their new record, Total Life Forever, the quintet takes a step in a direction that capitalizes more on ambient dance rock than intricate math-gasms.
The album’s drastic sound change stems not only from the guitar, but also lead singer, Yannis’ vocal styles. On the first record, his accent plays off the music and is clear in each song while in TLF it feels more generic. He’s lost his uniqueness in a way and replaced it with the tried and true. Although it is disappointing to hear such a change, it’s somewhat for the better. His original style wouldn’t have fit this album well – the mood of both the music and vocals have changed.
While guitar-noodling has diminished, synth lines and dance back beats have taken their place. The whole album feels like making people move was Foals’s sole purpose rather than creating well-crafted music. Repetition and catchiness has taken the place of technicality and uniqueness, making the record blend into the background rather than grabbing your interest.
Although a far cry from what they’ve put out before now, Total Life Forever has a charm of its own that will likely gain many new fans. Old fans may find the change was taken in the wrong direction, making Foals no longer the indie math-rock gods they were. Instead they’ll be seen as boring has-beens in less than a half decade. Though variety is the spice of life, changing for the sake of changing is not always a wise approach. Unfortunately for Foals, the old cliche “sophomore slump” seems to have taken the Oxford-based band as its next victim.