With regard to “Antidotes,” the debut album from British indie outfit Foals, the sentiment “if you’ve heard one song, you’ve heard them all,” isn’t an entirely unfair assessment. Fortunately for the band, they’ve honed a winning formula of upbeat dance-rock, with a sound that invites comparison to groups like Bloc Party, The Rapture and occasionally Hot Hot Heat. As a result, while “Antidotes” feels a bit repetitive, it’s still an enjoyable listen.
After forming in Oxford, England in 2005, Foals exploded onto the British music scene with “Hummer” and “Mathletics” — two bonus tracks included on “Antidotes,” which was released in the States on April 8, two weeks after it dropped in the UK.
The quintet of twentysomethings (singer/guitarist Yannis Philippakis, keyboardist Edwin Congreave, bassist Walter Gervers, guitarist Jimmy Smith and drummer Jack Bevan) graced the cover of British music mag NME earlier this year. The publication, in its ever-hyperbolic wisdom, hailed Foals as one of the bands that will “define the year.” No pressure there.
For now at least, Foals appear to be shying away from the hype. (“We’re not interested in fulfilling other people’s expectations,” Philippakis told NME.)
To be fair, “Antidotes” isn’t entirely uniform. The twinkling guitars and breathy vocals on “Olympic Airwaves,” and the brooding rhythm of “Electric Bloom,” provide a reprieve from the otherwise mostly buoyant tracks.
Philippakis’ lyrics are often indistinguishable – obscured by his bandmates’ instruments and his thick British accent. But it appears the band is more focused on the melody of its songs than the sentiment behind them (perhaps evidenced by the fact that only scribbled snippets of the lyrics are included in the record’s liner notes).
The album could be tighter, with half of the 14 tracks surpass the four-minute mark. This hampers some of the stronger offerings like “Two Steps Twice.” A restless alert advisory is in order for the song, which clocks in at 4:40, but takes nearly two minutes to really get going. But listeners who resist the temptation to press the skip button will be rewarded with a fever pitch of bouncy rhythms, as Philippakis barks, “That’s one step, one step, two step!”
The concise “Cassius,” on the other hand, jumps into hip-shaking mode from the get go and offers three-plus minutes of pulsing beats. There’s no hope for anyone who resists the urge to, at a minimum, tap a foot to this one.
For British rock bands of late, the Next Big Thing tag has been more of a blessing than a curse (Arctic Monkeys, anyone?). But although Philippakis says he isn’t interested in meeting expectations, if the audience’s enthusiasm at a recent sold-out show at New York’s Bowery Ballroom is any indication, he and his bandmates might not have a choice.
May 01 Showplace Theatre, Buffalo, NY
May 05 Higher Ground, South Burlington, VT
May 06 Middle East, Cambridge, MA (downstairs)
May 07 Maxwells, Hoboken, NJ
May 08 Union Hall, Brooklyn, NY
May 22 Pop Scene, San Francisco, CA
May 24 Troubadour, Hollywood, CA
May 25 Brick by Brick, San Diego, CA
May 28 Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, OR
May 30 Neumos, Seattle, WA