There is no denying that What Went Down is a huge album in the progression of Foals’ career. 2008’s Antidotes offered a math-rock inspired contrast to the kitsch indie pop flooding the NME at the time, Total Life Forever was ambitious but unrefined, then Holy Fire came along and made their first two efforts irrelevant. With it’s velvety smooth synths and festival ready choruses, Holy Fire was the album Foals had always hinted at…So here we are in 2015, and What Went Down could be the album that pushes Foals up to the big leagues, the festival headline slots they clearly aspire to.
‘What Went Down’ opens the album, the title track that acted as the first teaser for what to expect from the new album. In the same vein as crowd favourite ‘Inhaler’, ‘What Went Down’ comes out firing on all cylinders, with a build up destined for set opener status, before ‘Mountain At My Gates’ carries on the tempo and adds the jangly sheen Foals are renowned for and a chorus its frankly impossible to dislike.
‘Give it All’ and ‘Nightswimmers’ showcase Foals at their atmospheric best, with Yannis’ vocals blending in with the instrumentation until you almost forget he is even singing, the textures blending together so smoothly. ‘Lonely Hunter’ plays out like ‘Bad Habit’ from the previous album, beginning dark and brooding, building to a synth swamped climax, before ‘A Knife in the Ocean’ introduces the most ambitious song Foals have written to date. Densely layered choruses and swells, bluesy stripped back verses, and a violin led melody combine to create a sublime album closer, if you close your eyes you can almost see the Pyramid stage constructing around the song, against a headliner backdrop.
As stated in the opening paragraph, Foals had a lot to prove and even more to lose on What Went Down, what they have delivered however is the finest record of their career to date. ‘Birch Tree’ and ‘Knife in the Ocean’ are some of the finest songs in their catalogue, ‘Mountain at my Gates’ and ‘Lonely Hunter’ show a band truly finding their sound, and if their ‘secret’ performances at Reading and Leeds this weekend are anything to go by, the forthcoming live dates are going to further propel Foals up to ever increasing heights.