Foals - The French Open
Another day, another debut album groaning under the weight of hype and expectation. Foals have a slightly stronger pedigree than some of the other hot new bands for 2008 with a string of singles released last year. The decision not to include Hummer and Mathletics on their debut album shows some confidence in the new material, a confidence which isn't always backed up. So is it math rock, afro rock or even perhaps just pop?
The answer to the question above may well be all three. The album begins with The French Open's horns and staccato guitars which soon develop into a jumpy afro infused pop chorus. New single Cassius is a stomping floor filler, a trick they pull again on Two Steps, Twice to great effect, building the complex layers of rhythm and guitar like a piece of dance music. The problem is that Yannis Philippakis doesn't have the kind of voice you exactly fall in love with. Like Kele Okereke of Bloc Party with whom the band have been compared, his upper register shout is not to all tastes and the quieter attempts on this album expose its weaknesses. Some tracks like Heavy Water never quite gel leaving you with an album which feels a little less than the sum of its parts.
That said there are some effective moments like the much darker Electric Bloom which conjures some haunting images ' An empty morgue with gurning hearts and hollowed crowns/And all I see is marching bands/... It's just another hospital'. And Foals clearly know how to get a live crowd on their feet and dancing away. Perhaps their second album will see Foals grow into a band who can fulfill their promise.