Thursday, 21 August 2008

Fear of Music

Foals @ Cross Kings, London

There's that old adage that you should judge a man (sic) by the company he keeps. If I were to apply that same logic to music, Foals would have been dismissed before playing a note this evening . Playing what they admit themselves is their smallest show in a long time, the less than 300 strong crowd is comprised of the worst of people. Ignorant, fawning and identikit, alcohol bores through their bloodstream and I crave prohibition, or Ian MacKaye and a megaphone full of spite. Maybe I'm bitter or misunderstanding here, but at least I've still something beating in my chest. 

As the 'secret', or at least low-key nature of the gig suggests, it's a partisan gathering too. Foals probably don't have to do much tonight save turn up. The opening few songs confirm my suspicions, the crowd lapping up some relatively formless, predictable jams that I very much doubt will make the second record. Yannis himself even acknowledges that they're filler, which makes you wonder why they bothered.  That could be a concern for the band, but with the sheer volume of shows they've played in the last year it's hardly surprising they've had little time to write new material.

They do trot out the more well known songs in "Cassius", "Balloons" and "Hummer", but the stand outs are the album tracks that dispense of the clipped-guitar-bouncing-hi-hat formula and breathe a little. Fittingly, "Olympic Airwaves" is the first real highlight of the night, with a warmth and lushness not apparent in their more spiky dancefloor moments. It's songs like these, as with "Red Socks Pugie" that Foals remind just why everyone was so excited in the first place. I think they know it too, hence their decision to omit the popular early singles from the album. 

The much documented conflict with David Sitek has shown they're focused and single-minded. Let's hope they can harness that stubborness and turn it creative on their sophomore effort. They're technically talented enough to do whatever they can imagine and their much cited influences alone show they've rich sources to draw upon - can there ever be enough Q And Not U? And it's still the best rhythm section to bother the charts in as long as I can remember. 

All attention was obviously on Foals tonight. Even Matt Horne was there, until he got bored four songs in. They went back to their roots (they do have indie kudos via Try Harder, after all) and waltzed through Antidotes with ease, earning sychophancy to spare. It was an easy victory, like Usain Bolt in a empty field. And well deserved, I'm sure. But, there's another aphorism I'm reminded of here: it's a fool that looks at the hand pointing at the sky. Foals reference a lot of great bands and at times they channel the same electric, ambitious impulses of their influences. Although the new material tonight doesn't make this apparent, the newer songs on the album suggest they're pushing in the right directions and stretching out their aesthetic. I suspect however that they might lose a few of the assembled bandwagon jumpers with their eyes fixed firmly on pointed fingers. And thank god.  Indie elitism I know, but I want music back. Most of these people don't deserve it. 

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