Holy Fire [VINYL]
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Third studio album by the British indie band. The album features the singles 'Inhaler' and 'My Number', the latter of which debuted on BBC's 'Later... with Jools Holland'. The album debuted in the UK Albums Chart at #2 and received a great critical reception.
Foals’ moniker made perfect sense in the mid-00s. Their early singles were spindly affairs, capable of kicking out but occasionally awkward of movement. The Oxford five-piece swiftly suffered restrictive pigeonholing: “math-rockers” never had much of a chart-busting ring to it.
So much buzz and hype – enough to drown most bands. But Foals’ debut, 2008’s Antidotes, held firm against any backlash, and 2010’s Total Life Forever successfully expanded their palette of (largely leftfield) influences. A Mercury Prize nomination was just reward.
Today, they’re less a fumbling creature finding its feet and more the tremendous elephant in the live room - truly, they've become a huge-sounding proposition. Foals were already a mainstream presence; now, they’ve made an album properly reflecting that status. Arena tours should await them.
Holy Fire’s lead tracks, Inhaler and My Number, comprise tone-setters for this slickly realised set, which focuses on instant-click compositions over consciousness-creepers. That both sound enormous may have everything to do with Alan Moulder and Flood’s production – and if not, their presence can’t have hurt.
These insights into a more traditional rock aesthetic are ultimately catalogue highs. They showcase the right manner of group maturity, embracing the core of today’s commercial rock market while retaining traces of trademark twitchiness. It’s a perverse progression: two steps backwards to leap into an unwritten future.
Late Night is a slow-burner that brilliantly erupts in its final third. Of similar design is Milk & Black Spiders, which will be a standout moment of the band’s live set when it, too, bursts with intoxicating vibrancy at its climax, strings rushing into the mix. Stepson and Moon are more delicate affairs, sequenced to impress considerably at the album’s end.
Yannis Philippakis’ lyricism could be dizzyingly cryptic before, but here he’s focusing on identifiable themes: love, friendship, distance, travel. Metaphors are less messy, the language streamlined. He sings with tenderness when necessary, and has developed a satisfyingly gruff roar, best employed on Inhaler.
Holy Fire is somewhat hamstrung by Bad Habit, a peculiar hybrid of The Temper Trap’s Sweet Disposition and Mumford & Sons. It lacks the singular spark that makes this band’s best cuts stand boldly from the crowd. Prelude, too, will likely lose the battle against the skip button.
But such quibbles are minor. The kids – which Foals were at their outset – have grown up splendidly. You might say they’ve become a true thoroughbred outfit, if such linguistic horseplay was your thing.
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Top customer reviews
Holy Fire has all the elements of a great album, when NOT compared to the brilliant "Total Life Forever" from 2010. The sound on "Holy Fire" is a little smoother, a little easier, the guitarwork has become somewhat simpler, its like Foals are seeking an audience which cant take too much math-rock.
Compared to 90% of music in the charts, its still brilliant, it charted in the top 5 and will sell well but i just feel that they could have continued improving, instead they have somewhat shifted sideways and are in a holding pattern over the charts.
"My Number" is their least adventerous single so far, "Inhaler" is better but still fades a little, without enough variety.
I hope the sales vs talent trap doesnt catch Foals...the record label maybe gets twitchy cos this isnt a bland Coldplay disaster and drops them???
Sadly, Holy Fire sees Foals lose their mojo as far as I'm concerned. Yet, it is not without merit.
It starts well enough with Prelude and Inhaler, but the biggest red flag imaginable then raises itself in the shape of the horrifically bad My Number. A lightweight pop/funk ditty with no emotion, soul, punch or thrust. It's candy floss for the ears and by far the worst song they've ever written. Bad Habit is not much better, being an instantly forgettable MOR pop-indie-rock-by-numbers filler.
Everytime is marginally better and has a decent hook, but it all still sounds rather uninspired. Thankfully, Late Night provides some redemption. A slow-burn, slow-build track full of tension and soul, this is what I paid my money for. Next track Out of the Woods is sadly a damp squib of a track. The band don't sound like they're particularly interested by this point, which begs the question: why should we be?
Milk & Black Spiders is thankfully much more interesting and engaging, and the clattering Providence piques the interest albeit in rather directionless fashion. Stepson is a real beauty of a tune but then the album closer Moon brings a downbeat and dour ending to proceedings.
Overall, Foals always engaged me because they sounded like nobody else and their music was so damn powerful. For me, on Holy Fire, they've lost that power to inspire me and now sound like a middling indie band trying to sound like Foals. Either they're trying too hard or not hard enough, I can't quite decide.
I wanted to love this album. It has the odd great moment, but nowhere near enough. Parts of it may yet grow on me, yet after quite a few listens I can see this as a record that doesn't get many airings in the future, I'm very sad to say.
Foals strength is that their music is far more indie-pop in style than most of the new bands who try to produce perfect pop, so as much as I like the albums by bands like Bastille and The 1975, I think Foals are rawer, less like Coldplay and more likely to stand the test of time.
One key point if you're about to press the BUY button, take a look at the Deluxe version which is out now (28/10/13), and for a couple of pounds more you get a DVD too.
Immediately disappointed that CD is not the 'Live' tracks featured on the DVD. A previous effort I recall having this format was Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto album which included the live version of songs.
Don't get me wrong, I adore Foals and have seen them live so many times. And off the back of this, I would have loved to have seen a set list including live sets of Red Sock Pugie, Balloons and Spanish Sahara. I already have Holy Fire and so to find out that I had bought the album again when I already have it left me annoyed.
Holy Fire though, is an OUTSTANDING album...would have preferred the live recordings on this occasion.
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Most recent customer reviews
A very complete deluxe edition.
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