Music to exceed the speed limit by: a review of Foals, What Went Down

The CD slips innocently into the player as you exit the historic old town. You’re in a good mood – let’s say you’ve had news on a creative project that’s washed your working day away – and after three or four plays, you know this album is what you’re looking for, driving home in the dark.

I buried my heart in a hole in the ground… the opening number, all high-impact guitars and slamming drums, kicks in as you twist the car out of the last roundabout in town, and you’re away, an open road for a couple of miles, building speed, the car and you forgetting yourselves together as the music swells around you, the first number fading down as you slow for the slew of houses and a closed paper mill, then the long stretch uphill, shifting up through the gears, away, free again

I see a fire out by the lake

I see the Reaper sit and wait…

You round a corner and stand on the brakes, because there’s a thing with flashing lights, some sort of agricultural vehicle, crawling ahead of you, but that’s ok, because again the music seems to soundtrack the moment, switching down to ‘Birch Tree,’ the third track, a quieter moment, taking you through the village, the trailer ahead punctuating the night with its yellow beacons, clear for a moment and you take it, dropping the car to second, and Yannis and the car engine roar together as you cane it past the tractor and its trailer, the oncoming headlights closing fast,  then coasting down into the county town

Give me something I haven’t seen

Give me the red light turning green

But there are no lights to turn against you now, just the usual way home, and the longer way with the long straight, and you take the straight, the final coda to track four punching in just as you hit the national speed limit sign, and so on, and so on, the music matching you and the road, mood for mood, moment for moment, Yannis singing, his bearded mouth close to your ear in a way that’s more than a little fresh for a first date, and you forgetting your middle age and your head full of business with the car to yourself and those glimpses of the open road until you find yourself, round about the time Yannis sings

You know that Voodoo that only you do

ain’t made for boys like me

kissing 90 on the accident-blackspot section of dual carriageway, and you change down again, brake sensibly, and observe all operative provisions of the Road Traffic (Scotland) Act like you usually do.

Just in case you think I’ve gone all Jeremy Clarkson on you, this isn’t just to say Foals’ latest album is great driving music. It is, but it’s much more than that: it’s music to listen to, alone on a beach under a dark bruise of sky, in the shade of a thundercloud, indeed, the waves and your footsteps in the sand bleeding in as the music thunders in your ears; or in the solitude of your teenage bedroom, just you and Yannis, away from the bullies and the constant demands; or in the thick of a sweat-flecked crowd, singing along like you’re part of a greater animal as the boys bring these rousing rock anthems home.

In other words, it’s music to live to.






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