Foals – What Went Down

On 28th August, Foals released their heavily-anticipated fourth album What Went Down. The initial brief teaser (at just a mere twelve seconds long) was unveiled on the 9th June, with a full album sampler following in August.

It is astounding that the band left little time to dwell on the success of 2013’s Holy Fire  before throwing themselves back into writing and recording for this year’s release. Frontman Yannis Philippakis told NME back in April that “Over the next month I think we’re going to start writing tentatively”, but back then no one was prepared for such a strong album to be dropped within such a short period of time.

The title track – ‘What Went Down’ – was the first single to be revealed to the public on Annie Mac’s radio show on the 16th June. This is notably the heaviest song on the album, with Philippakis’s screams of “When I see a man I see a lion” just audible over a collision of guitar riffs and heavily percussion.

‘Mountains At My Gate’ followed shortly, demonstrating a new direction in the quintet’s sound. The smoother, polished tones revealed that there would be much more to the new LP than the heavy chaotic sound of ‘What Went Down’. The climactic nature reminisces back to ‘Spanish Sahara’ on Total Life Forever  whilst the catchy atmosphere evokes a similar reaction to Holy Fire‘s ‘My Number’, illustrating the varied, complex nature of the new release.

‘A Knife in The Ocean’ was the penultimate track to be unveiled before the album’s release, signalling the lyrical genius of the band. In comparison to the former releases, it can be seen as more of a space-filler than a stand-out tune, but it remains a testament to Philippakis’s skill for writing.

The last song to be unveiled before the 28th August was ‘London Thunder’, once more showing the way in which the mellower sounds of ‘Spanish Sahara’ have been translated onto the new record. The song seems to build-up around the 3 minute mark, once again reminding avid listeners of the climatic nature of ‘Spanish Sahara’.

Songs such as ‘Birch Tree’ and ‘Lonely Hunter’ almost take on the upbeat sounds from the 2008 math-rock debut Antidotes, whilst ‘Give It All’ would not sound out of place amongst the maturing sounds of  2010’s Total Life Forever. 

In conclusion, What Went Down  fuses together a vivid mixture of sounds from all of Foals’ previous releases, yet simultaneously sounds fresh and exciting. The way in which the heavier ‘Snake Oil’ (which would not sound entirely out-of-place on a Royal Blood album) can flow into the complex and poppier guitar notes of ‘Night Swimmers’ is merely one example that shows just how cohesive this multifaceted album is.


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