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Review: Foals’ Apocalyptic Epic ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Pt. 1’

UK rockers aim high on prog-pop concept set, with muddled, mostly generic results.

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Alex Knowles

On their debut Antidotes, produced by TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek, Foals stepped from their stalls with shifty post-punk grooves, kinetic percussion, and nervous, sulky vibes. By 2013, with Holy Fire, they smoothed and super-sized their sound with production from U2 vets Flood and Alan Moulder. Their latest LP finds Foals mostly self-producing, with help from engineer Brett Shaw (Florence and The Machine, Robyn), and swinging for what used to be the fences on a proggy, ambitious project; part two is due this fall.

Bless ‘em for their ambition, and too bad it didn’t yield more than this muddled set. So far, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost reads as a post-apocalyptic song cycle about life after an eco-disaster, where “sand dunes fill up all our towns,” and “robots have made the rounds” and “there’s no birds left to fly” — thought curiously, we later learn “the birds are all singing ‘It’s the end of the world.’” (Perhaps they’re penguins, still struggling with identity issues.) Trump, or recovered memories of him, continues to haunt. A reference to the Sargasso Sea could be a literary nod, a shout-out to the North Atlantic Garbage Patch, a reverie of privileged movements in the Bahamas, or just a portentiously unmoored signifier. Conceptually, the LP comes off at best as a less multi-cultural Damon Albarn project; it worst, it’s Coldplay reimagining Tales From Topographic Oceans.

To be sure, Foals can still bring compelling grooves: see the percussion-spiked funk of “In Degrees” and the glistening “Café D’Athens,” whose dubby marimba vibe recalls Tortoise, A Certain Ratio, and the sort of rangy late-20th century rock music the band used to conjure regularly. Here, it’s a detour on what’s otherwise a generic throwback — not as slavish in its retreads as Greta Van Fleet, but a drag from a band capable of more. We’ll see what’s up with Pt. 2.

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