Foals are back with a brand new album entitled ‘What Went Down’. What will be the Oxford five-piece’s fourth album is due to be released on 28th August this year. They spent six months last year in Oxford writing the songs for the album and managed to unanimously agree on the ten best songs for the album. They then flew out to Saint-Remy-de-Provence in the south of France to record the album in a studio called La Fabrique. The studio where Morrissey recorded his comeback album ‘World Peace Is None Of Your Business’. Speaking to Gavin Haynes in this week’s NME, frontman Yannis Philippakis said “This is the record that most closely mimics the sound in our heads. We wanted it to be lean… less reverb, more punchy”.
The title track of the album was given its first play by Annie Mac on Radio 1 a couple of weeks ago. In the first 30 seconds of the track you can hear the leaner sound. The guitar sounds tighter and there’s none of the hazy reverb found on previous albums such as 2013’s ‘Holy Fire’. Yannis told NME “We wanted it to feel like the moment a predatory animal goes in for the kill: there’s a savagery to it”. The first verse feels as though it is building and building: building tension, and anticipation for something in the chorus. The lyrics of the song echo this, as What Went Down breaks into the chorus, Yannis shouts “When I see a man, I see a lion”. The guitar and drums are pounding and the vocals are brash and aggressive, the savagery is definitely there. The idea behind the song is clearly well formed as the video also fits in perfectly. It shows two girls swimming through the sea, after another girl who is trying to escape, and a man stood on a beach with a not so friendly looking pitbull running at him.
By the time the second chorus rolls around, its not so loud and barbaric. The riff is calm and quiet but always building and there’s a more steady drum beat. Yannis almost whispering this time, sings “You’re the apple of my eye”, contrasting a bit of innocence amidst all the brutality. As everything grows in volume and vigour, Yannis growls “I’m a sycophantic animal, a sycophantic animal”. And bang, the chorus hits with full force, as in the video, the pitbull slams into the man’s side with full force knocking him clean off his feet. And the girls catch up to their prey and drag her under the water. Yannis throws the mic stand to the ground and screams into it.
The verses of the song are the chase, a predatory animal chasing its prey, all the anticipation and it drawing closer and closer to its target. The chorus kicking in is the animal’s jaws closing onto its prey- the pitbull’s jaws closing onto the man’s side or the girls’ hand clasping their victim’s shoulders and pushing her underwater.
Moving away from the formula and the basis of the song, it’s a very punk piece of music. A complete move away from past singles such as ‘My Number’ which was straight-up indie pop. It’s a brave move for Foals but one which they probably had to make now that they have came to their fourth album. It is often a very natural thing for bands to evolve and explore new genres and ideas. Take Swim Deep for example, who have quickly moved away from their brand of feel-good, summery indie pop exhibited on their debut album, 2013’s Where The Heaven Are We. Their album which is set to be released this September entitled ‘Mothers’ has been described by frontman Austin Williams as ‘psychedelic sex music’- apparently influenced more by Kanye West than 90s Manchester. It will be interesting to see the direction Foals take themselves in with ‘What Went Down’. We’ll find out in August.