Album: Foals, Antidotes (Transgressive)

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The Independent Culture

Heard in brief three-minute bursts among a radio playlist of diverse flavours, Foals' music goes sufficiently against the grain to catch one's attention.

But at album length, when they constitute the grain itself, it's a different matter. Their combination of furrow-browed math-rock riffs, and lyrics so impenetrable they're virtually in a private language, simply leaves this listener, for one, nervous and alienated by its formalism. It's like Frank Zappa without the gags – or, indeed, the tunes. Antidotes is fine for the first few tracks, particularly "The French Open", where the twinkly West African flavour of the guitars interlocks neatly with the itchy rhythms; but thereafter hardly any attempt is made to draw the listener in.

Click the arrow to listen to a clip of Foals track 'Cassius',

Quite the opposite: on tracks like "Electric Bloom" and "Heavy Water", it's almost as if they're trying to bludgeon one into submission with their industrious opacity, which seeks the questing credibility of avant-rock but, crucially, lacks the liberating spirit of great jazz. Rather than the soaring freedom of a Coltrane, Parker or Gilmore, this is an intensely claustrophobic experience, like listening to men busily nailing themselves inside a box.

Download this: 'The French Open', 'Red Socks Pugie'

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