Leeds Festival, August 2008 – Queue flashback to 18-year-old me and my college bestie, pitching our polka-dot tent in the muddiest corner of Bramham Park. With only two crates of Fosters to sustain us, we set out on what would later be known as the weekend I called Yannis of FOALS a wanker.
It was, of course, an accident (accident, accident…)
I walked up to Yannis at the NME signing tent. Completely awe-struck, I shouted MALAKAS! in his face. I was naïve enough to believe I was just shouting HELLO! in Greek. Ultimately, it didn’t matter what it meant, or that I was tricked into it by terrible friends. I was meeting Yannis of FOALS, for Christ’s sake. They were one of the newest indie bands in the UK at the time and I was just another weird fan. He laughed. It was another year before I found out what malakas really meant…
But FOALS are so much more than just an awkward memory. Their debut album Antidotes (2008) was the soundtrack to a glorious, post-exam summer, before our lives got far too serious with the insistence that we should be making plans for the ‘future’. Back then, it was OK to have a fling with loud, energetic music without getting too attached to some ‘deeper meaning’ in the lyrics. Cassius and Balloons were so easy to love, not because they had depth, but because they were noisy and euphoric – perfect for dancing at parties and drowning out conversations about the ‘future’.
Fast-forward 11 years to the release of the eagerly awaited fifth studio album, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1. We still love to dance at parties, but that ‘future’ we spent so long avoiding is now here and we can’t stop talking about it. Gone are the care-free days of the early noughties. Welcome to the days of what is left: a damaged planet, a laughable political system, and an overwhelming sense of anxiety about where we go from here. We are a fucked-up, angsty generation and FOALS have just given us our anthems.
In the 4 years building up to this release, FOALS have become self-aware. Their sound has taken on a newly found maturity, perhaps influenced in part by the times we live in. It’s easy to forget that in 2008, the band would only have been in their early 20’s. And if this album is anything to go by, they have done some serious growing up since then.
Part 1 is an overture to that fear-enduing ‘future’ we all love so much, with references to climate change: now the sea eats the sky, but they say it’s a lie, and there’s no birds left to fly, and the people we have to blame for everything: our fathers run and leave all the damage they’ve done behind. This is undoubtedly an album with an agenda. But in true FOALS-style, these big statements can be lost to the noise, if you’re not too careful.
Exits is a triumph. It has all the nostalgia of an Antidotes track at half the speed but feels more current and sophisticated. It’s the kind of track for sipping martinis to in the early hours of Sunday morning at some underground bar. Then with White Onions there is a complete switch up. 100x faster and more assertive, this track has a sharp edge and would arguably have made a better single. There are some more forgettable ‘filler’ tracks on this album, too. In Degrees may have funky, tropical notes, but is otherwise skip-able. Not bad for an album of less than 40 minutes.
And then there’s Sunday; by far the best track on the album with it’s gorgeous, 90’s vibe (think of Moby’s Porcelain but slower, with a subtle hint of Chris Martin vocals towards the end). It’s a far cry from the FOALS I have come to know (and love) – it is more thoughtful and sedate. Like a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s the last bit of hope that we might just be alright in this world after all.
That, then, is what I will take from one of my favourite band’s latest releases. They’re a band I have spent a lot of time with and Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1 is an album we should all be making time for right now.
Words by Kathy Halliday.