House Parties To Headliners: Foals' Guitar Riffs Through The Ages

Helen Payne 10 June 2019

In the 10 years since Foals released their debut album, ‘Antidotes’, Yannis Philippakis, Jack Bevan, Jimmy Smith and Edwin Congreave have naturally evolved.

But, from the intricate, math-rock style of their early days to the now all-encompassing landscapes of their new LP ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost’ and the grumbling overdrive inbetween, there’s one thing they have kept on delivering: awesome guitar riffs.

With a UK tour just around the corner, what better time to remind ourselves of some of those licks? You’ll be tapping your feet, nodding your head and desperate for a ticket before you know it.

Glitches And Pitches
2007

The year is 2007. It’s a time of hedonism within indie-rock. Arctic Monkeys have brought ‘Whatever People Say I Am...’ and ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ to the table, while ‘Silent Alarm’ has changed the trajectory of Bloc Party’s career. The Killers are looking towards their third album.

Foals, though, are just getting started, with their first singles out in the world. The first impression is tangle of high pitched guitar lines delivered in a glitchy and addictive manner. And Hummer even comes with its own dance moves. Time to whip those bad boys out at the live shows.

Sticking To The Rules...

‘Antidotes’ // 2008

‘Antidotes’ was the sound of scrappy house parties full of sweaty indie kids pushing each other around while sporting skinny jeans. On a fidgety album of cautious math-rock licks and agitated rhythms, the band challenged themselves to write an LP according to a set of rules. Bordering on techno and minimalism, as Philippakis told the Guardian in 2010, the guitar riffs on this album were only to be staccato rhythms, and only played high up on the neck.

Guitars duly lead the way on Balloons. After building the whole song around two alternating notes, more and more are layered up until we can’t see the song for the six-string anymore, and the vocals are constantly playing catch up every time the riff repeats, like a chase it just can’t complete. Two Steps Twice, a live favourite that closes every set, is another big hitter here. Opening with a siren call in the world of indie music, it breaks down into such a repetitive rhythm it that should feel boring, yet goes on to build into a singalong banger perfect for both headlining festivals and crashing around in your best mate’s bedroom after a couple of vodka shots.

...Then Breaking Them

‘Total Life Forever’ // 2010

Two years later, and Foals’ second album opens with their by now idiosyncratic guitar tone playing one simple note. Blue Blood brings a more tropical vibe to their otherwise techno-fuelled minimalist punk, as well as an emotional element to the whole album. Here, we see some of the character behind Yannis: his Greek roots, and is that album cover a nod to ‘Nevermind’? Either way, Foals took a mature step in the right direction in making one of their best records.

Their love affair with high pitched and fragmented guitar lines hasn’t wavered, but they do explore the theme a bit more, breaking their self-imposed rules. Naughty. The title track introduces chords, still high up on the neck, that bring a slightly different dynamic to otherwise thin layers. Spanish Sahara is the first to jump outside the box, and is formed with various synths and some heavily reverberated vocals. It’s over four minutes before a lead guitar even comes in, but when it does it’s pure gold. Its simple falling melody had teenagers playing along in their bedrooms for hours.

Holy F...

‘Holy Fire’ // 2013

Inhaler is the first time we get a proper slice of the overdrive pie. Tensions have been building on the band’s third album, ‘Holy Fire’ for five and a half minutes now, and finally one of the most epic riffs of the decade roars into life: a dirty, gritty melody that ends abruptly, constantly keeping the first-time listener off guard.

It’s clear to see the huge scale of evolution since their more humble beginnings. Evidently more confident in their delivery, Foals are becoming a rock band who don’t give two shits about the rules anymore. The rest of the album isn’t quite as heavy as its openers suggest, with instant indie-pop classic My Number falling into playlists the world over, and Late Night offering us a lengthy and improvised solo. YUM.

It All Goes Down

‘What Went Down’ // 2015

What DIDN’T go down on this record? The start of a new era for Foals, ‘What Went Down’ kicks off with an almost desert-rock style, and an all-encompassing landscape of huge stature. You can almost picture a face-off going on outside a dusty saloon, guns in hand, sweat dripping, spurs spinning.

The rest of the album didn’t quite follow suit, what with the guitar pop of Mountain At My Gates and Birch Tree teetering back towards those muted, high pitch staccato notes. Snake Oil brought it back around again, however, complete with an extra dose of fuzz and a half-time bridge to get the headbangers going.

Everything Not Synth Will Be Lost

‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost’ // 2019

Foals’ latest album, ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost’ is out now. While the new record sees the boys (minus bassist Walter Gervers, who stepped out in 2018 to pursue other endeavors) head in a more electronic direction and rely on synths a little more, there are still riffs galore to drool over.

The disco-infused In Degrees still sounds inimitably like Foals, and the marimba tones on Cafe D’Athens somewhat unintentionally simulate the soundtrack to Crash Bandicoot brilliantly. Friendly nods to their early career are audible, too, with the background guitar lines on Exits reaching the highest guitar frets.

Foals tour the UK this month, kicking things off on June 11. Tickets are on sale now.

Foals Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue June 11 2019 - MANCHESTER O2 Victoria Warehouse
Wed June 12 2019 - MANCHESTER O2 Victoria Warehouse
Fri June 14 2019 - TUNBRIDGE WELLS Bedgebury Pinetum
Sat June 15 2019 - BIRMINGHAM Digbeth Arena
Sun June 16 2019 - BIRMINGHAM Digbeth Arena
Tue June 18 2019 - GLASGOW SWG3 Galvanizers
Thu June 20 2019 - BRANDON Thetford Forest
Fri June 21 2019 - LONDON Alexandra Palace
Sat June 22 2019 - LONDON Alexandra Palace
Wed June 26 2019 - BOURNEMOUTH Bournemouth Int'nl Centre
Thu June 27 2019 - KINGSTON Pryzm
Tue July 02 2019 - DUBLIN Trinity College
Fri August 09 2019 - NEWQUAY Fistral Beach

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