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“I’ve been waiting all day inside / Waiting for a summer sky,” croons Yannis Philippakis on “2001”, the lead single from Foals’ celebratory seventh album, Life is Yours. Its post-pandemic party grooves mark a significant change of mood from the yowling indie storm of 2019’s Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost: Part Two.
Since then, keyboardist Edwin Congreave has left the band and begun a postgraduate economics degree at Cambridge University, hoping to help find solutions to the “imminent climate catastrophe”. The remaining members seem to have followed James Brown’s famous suggestion that “the one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing”. Their muscular concoction of funk-rock-pop includes nods to the godfather of soul along with Prince, Chic, Talking Heads, Duran Duran and LCD Soundsystem.
The album’s dynamic flick’n’snap comes courtesy of three producers with solid pop chops: AK Paul (Jai Paul, Emile Sande, Nao), John Hill (Carly Rae Jepson, Santigold, Charli XCX) and Dan Carey (Wet Leg, Grimes, Bat for Lashes). Together they’ve splattered so many sounds over the canvas that – if you focus too hard – it can feel like listening to a Pollock painting. Take the stand-out centrepiece “Flutter”, a song that splashes pretty pings of West-African kora over desert blues. This then teeters into the kind of low rumbling, funk-soul wah-wah groove you’d find in the theme for a Seventies cop show. There are battering drums and maracas, layered vocals, background mutterings, and a sample of something that sounds like an old bus. It’s BUSY. The trick – as with a Pollock – is to stand back, soften the joints and enjoy the energy.
That energy is delightfully consistent. The tendon-twanging kicks off with the title track, on which Philippakis finds a sweetness of tone as he sings of rivers heading to the ocean over synth pulses and festival-ready cowbells. “Wake Me Up” is driven by a cheeky, Chic-y guitar. “2am” is drizzled in free-flowing electric riffs. There’s a Nineties club vibe to “The Sound” and a moody post-punk atmosphere to “Under the Radar”. There’s a lovely squelchy bass on “(summer sky)”, which doesn’t need brackets around its title. But they’ve clearly taken the same approach to punctuation as to percussion and thrown it all in there. Melodies duck and dive – merrily if sometimes forgettably – through the songs, serving the rhythms rather than driving them.
“Looking High” channels Balearic bliss, with a dreamy chorus that allows Philippakis’s newfound falsetto to float cloudwards. In an interview with The Independent last week, he was frank about struggling with the lack of social interaction during the pandemic. This song sees him welcoming his audience back with open arms: “I hope I see that modern life returning,” he sings, “All the new kids coming in.” Life is Yours ends with the sun-dappled “Wild Green”, recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studio in the countryside beyond Bath. Philippakis inhales and exhales over the beat, letting go of the anxiety that has knotted so many of his songs together in the past. It’s a happy sound.