In 2018, when Arctic Monkeys released Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino, fans were divided and faced with a band once energetic and explosive, refined to weird lounge jazz and piano-plinking. To some, it was viewed as a step forwards; it was a rite of passage for Arctic Monkeys to mature, to grow up, and to explore their sound.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked Tranquillity Base, but the biggest complaints were just how jarring the transformation was, how Arctic Monkeys often confused ‘maturity’ with ‘pretentiousness’, and how much it sounded like the Alex Turner Super Special Solo Project.
And so, in 2019, here come Foals with Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Part 1; the answer to the question: how does a band ‘mature’ the right way?
Twists and turns await every corner, with most lyrics a vague allusion to other-worldliness and escapism, and a tone of intrigue and underlying mysticism to match. Some elements are downright haunting and, much in the spirit of the title, Everything Not Saved focuses on a world passing Foals by as they are powerless to slow it down. The pace temporarily drops halfway through; ‘Syrups’, a slow burner that pairs Philippakis’ tortured voice with smooth ‘n’ sexy bass licks. Even as the storm swirls and the bass turns frantic, there is an aura of hopelessness or doom here that Foals tackle with utter brashness:
“When the end comes my way /
Will I drop to my knees and pray?”
Lead single and stellar standout of the album, ‘Exits’, clocks the longest runtime of the 10-track, just short of six minutes. There is so much going on; from the eighties synth in the background, the pummelling drums, meaty bass, to the pained falsetto vocals:
“I said I’m so sorry /
That the world has fallen down”.
Foals are not afraid of mixing piano tinkles with dirty bass, nor from occasionally delving into self-indulgent solos mid-track. Their efforts to develop the band’s sound feel, frankly, effortless. ‘On the Luna’, a guitar-heavy jab at the “free-from-guilt born Babyboomer” generation, is the closest Foals come to sounding like their earlier work, but other than that, Everything Not Saved has moved far, far away from the riff-fest of 2015’s What Went Down or the Two Door-esque Holy Fire of 2013.
‘Sunday’ and ‘I’m Done With the World (& It’s Done with Me)’ bring the album to a close, taking the listener on a tour from a careless Spring to a miserable Autumn. The former evokes imagery of a sunny, lax morning, whilst the latter, a cold, bitter evening. The lyrics “All I wanna do is get up and leave, I’m on my knees” are smoothed into an emphatic end.
What you will find with Not Everything Saved Will Be Lost, Part 1 is 40 minutes of interest and inquiry; songs that pull punches with restraint, avoiding the easy route or the trodden path, but innovate and expand. Few of these songs are set to be festival bangers – at least, not in the same way ‘My Number’ and ‘What Went Down’ were upon release. Set to headline the indie scene at Y Not?, Truck, and Boardmasters in the UK this festival season, alongside a plethora more abroad, it will be truly intriguing to see how Foals can employ a sound entirely new on a main stage.