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It's hardly the cure for anything but Antidotes
, the debut album from Oxford's Foals, is a strong addition to the eternal tradition of dance-friendly art rock most recently exemplified by Franz Ferdinand and Klaxons. The five ex-public schoolboys that make up Oxford's Foals are hardly lacking self-confidence--comically cocky frontman Yannis Phillipakis could annoy for the nation and the band rejected producer David Sitek's original mix--but Antidotes
is anything but pony. After spending their youth in rigorous "math rock" outfits, Foals started out in 2005 with the stated intention of having fun. Rather delightfully, this amounted to the discovery that audiences are well disposed to acts they can dance to. A clutch of well-received singles and a guest spot on popular sixth-form satire Skins
sealed their popularity. Their origins in academic rock are sometimes obvious, but fine drummer Jack Bevan keeps things moving throughout. Opener "The French Open", with its gleeful chanted vocals (in French) and fashionable Afrobeat tinged guitar lines, evokes Talking Heads' dada nonsense classic "I Zimbra", itself older than any Foal. First top thirty hit "Cassius" saw jazz-punk back in the charts for the first time since that perennial football crowd favourite "Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag". "Olympic Airways" is a charming if oblique tale of escape that couldn't be further from the bus stop/chip shop style while "Red Socks Pugie" already sounds like a single in waiting. The lyrics might charitably be described as impressionistic and Phillipakis's voice remains nondescript. But with better tunes than Bloc Party and a self-conscious precision that recalls Mogwai in their pomp, the effortlessly pretentious Foals are unmistakably the sound of 2008. --Steve Jelbert