For their latest offering, What Went Down, Foals retreated to the south of France to record in a rural 19th-century mill. Picture: Neil Krug

For album four, What Went Down, Foals teamed up with producer James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Florence and The Machine, Jessie Ware, Mumford and Sons) and retreated to the south of France to record in a rural 19th-century mill.
The result is a primal, sometimes harrowing album of extremes – touching the depths of madness while creating some of the most beautiful pop songs the band have ever written.
Lyrically, lead singer Yannis Philippakis deals with themes of cultural identity, generational anxiety, cynicism, pessimism and heartbreak; “I wanted to tap into my inner madman and feel like I was channelling some sort of fevered creature.”
Famously provocative, Philippakis is quick-witted with a razor-sharp tongue.
Every record has been an affirmation of the band’s big time potential and they have only taken steps in the right direction. 2013’s Holy Fire was a fire-breathing monster, but it was mostly defined by the big tunes within – Inhaler and My Number.
Two songs raising the bar to new heights. But as it turns out these are not one trick ponies. What Went Down thinks bigger and hits harder than its predecessors – and the ambience of the studio certainly lends to the finished work.
And it does sound huge. What Went Down is a festival headliners’ album: 10 songs tailored for massive crowds, massive speakers and the kind of magical collective euphoria that sparks when everyone’s tanked up, loved up and covered in mud. Close your eyes and you can see last summer’s Electric Picnic epic light show.
A monster of a track, What Went Down is a statement of intent and should cement Foals’ position as one of Britain’s most illustrious bands.
What Went Down is the most visceral song from Foals to date – it signals the return of a band who made their name in 2006 playing at house parties, and who, six years later, in 2013, morphed into festival headliners.
Mountain at My Gates follows with a slight shift in gears but no less intensity from vocalist Philippakis. The production qualities really shine through here and neat signature guitar melodies dovetailing nicely into the chorus – a real master in song writing.
There are no bouncy pop hits like My Number to keep things brisk (Night Swimmers comes closest). Instead it’s all sound and fury – enough to make anyone a bit nostalgic for the old Foals.
Remember the perky riffs? The songs about mathletics? The tennis shorts? Instead, Philippakis exercises his demons on the rough and searing Albatross but just falling short of what could have been the album’s finest moment. Not unexpectedly, Foals go for the big finish with A Knife in the Ocean (nearly seven minutes). The track has a more settled feel. If What Went down is madness then this is acceptance, a track to lose yourself in.
Yet again Foals deliver a sumptuous album of beautifully crafted songs against a backdrop of melancholy and deathly juggernauts.
If they didn’t already have enough songs in their arsenal to top festival bills, they’ve just added 10 more.