Foals are not your average indie rock five piece. A unique sound, often described as ‘math rock’, involving rhythmically complex guitars and experimental elements has, however, secured them a place in the metaphorical indie hall of fame. The Oxford band’s debut was Antidotes, a huge record which was suddenly everywhere, and produced gems such as ‘Cassius’ and ‘Two Steps Twice’; this was followed by the solid (and 2010 Mercury Award Nominated) Total Life Forever.
Their latest offering is Tapes – not a straightforward album but a ‘mix tape’ of music inspirational to the band and you know, just some of the songs they really like; band DJ and keyboardist Edwin Congreave admitted ‘we drove ourselves to shows listening to each other’s’ playlists on a ropey old cassette player’. Reiterating the mix tape theme, Foals have divided the album into two hypothetical sides – a listen of both confirms this idea is reflected in two distinct styles of music.
The first side, aptly named ‘Side A’ is a bit of a mash up, although all tracks are loosely dance-based. First up is Nicolas Jaar’s ‘Variations’, a sparse instrumental affair strongly influenced by his Chilean roots. It provides an intriguing opening, and introduces the use of world music on the record. This is a welcome platform for the genre, and not perhaps a surprise considering the band’s frontman, Yannis Philippakis, is Greek. Next we’re treated to a Biblio remix of Clark’s ‘Ted’, a guitar based track that sounds like a stripped down version of ‘Don’t Stop’ by The Stone Roses. Here we can see the influence on the band – the intricately arranged guitars are reminiscent of perhaps a Total Life Forever era Foals.
The highlight of this first side for me is Blood Orange’s ‘Dinner’; a Prince-inspired offering from ‘Lightspeed Champion’ Dev Hynes’ new musical outlet. This track introduces a hip hop element to Side A, but in a more ‘90’s unrequited love’ rather than a ‘bitches and hoes’ kind of way. There are a few strange offerings here though; The Invisible’s ‘London Girl’ is a bit of a flaccid affair, sandwiched awkwardly between two much stronger tracks. The beauty of the mix tape, however, is that there’s a real mix of sounds.
Side B starts with last year’s popular house track ‘We Call Love’ by Art Department, something of a guilty pleasure but a catchy track nonetheless. This side then descends into a bit of an aimless place, with Cerrone’s ‘Give Me Love’ and Sepalcure’s ‘Every Day Of My Life’ being a bit dubstep-esque for the average Foals fan. The following tracks send the record adrift somewhat, perhaps excluding a wonderfully bizarre ode to ‘shrooms from Marshall Jefferson and Noosa Heads. Foals this is not. A beautifully simple Midland Edit of Caribou’s ‘Sun’ and interesting African electronic band ‘Konono No1’ provide intrigue, whilst gospel classic ‘Yes God Is Real’ rounds off a mixed second side.
The record never strays into easy listening territory – it’s ambitious, and there’s a real mix of sounds. This is no nostalgia-fest and the tracks feel newer than I thought possible; it’s very 2012. Disappointingly, there is dubstep and Tapes could also be a little more succinct – it feels self-indulgent at times. My message to Foals fans though is to be open-minded.