Foals sign off their set with "Mathletics", a song whose title rather succinctly describes the band's winning formula. Their songs are a more radio-friendly version of the math-rock practiced by the New York-based group Battles. The lyrics and inter-song banter demonstrate conspicuous intelligence – two of them are, after all, former Oxford university students. Meanwhile, their youthful onstage exertions are sufficiently athletic for each member of the five-piece to shed a few pounds per show.
Their debut album, Antidotes, won't reach record stores until Monday, but Foals already have an ecstatic following here to celebrate the final date of their current tour. It's a shame that a band who would benefit from some audio clarity to accentuate the complexity of their arrangements must contend with the muddy sound system of the ageing Astoria.
There's an extra treat tonight, however, in the form of a two-piece brass section, whose trumpet and saxophone swells round out the frantic fret-bashing of frontman Yannis Philippakis and his fellow guitarist Jimmy Smith. They open with "The French Open", for which Philippakis employs his home-counties yelp to deliver a clever-clogs French chorus.
Foals decamped to Brooklyn to record Antidotes under the experienced supervision of TV on the Radio guitarist and producer Dave Sitek. There, they soaked up the same Afrobeat influences beloved of those other Brooklyn-based debutantes, Vampire Weekend and Yeasayer.
The band members and their instruments all seem to be jerking in different directions until a break comes along to arrange them all into a consistent whole. To start with, the insistent, skittish sound lacks texture, but after a few tracks the effect becomes hypnotic. The most thrilling contra-rhythms of the night come courtesy of the intro to "Two Steps, Twice".
The introductions to each song are suitably sophisticated. "Olympic Airways", explains Philippakis, is about an airline whose shabby interior design "peels away to reveal Aramaic script". "Heavy Water", with its rhythmic undercurrent of shimmering guitars, transforms into a dervish-like whirl. It's about "shooting vampires in the face," apparently. One song, "Electric Bloom", is about the funding inadequacies of the NHS, but it's an eerie coda to the main show.
At one stage, Philippakis suggests that by the next time they play London, Foals will all be suffering from glaucoma. If this is meant to be a joke, then it goes over the heads of most of his audience. If Foals' words go over your head, then you've still got their tunes and dancing feet to count on.Reuse content