While Franz Ferdinand make music that girls can dance to, Foals set out to make the kind of music everyone wants to dance to. Judging by the energetic reaction of tonight's audience, it would seem that they have succeeded.
As the crowd almost spills onto the tiny and already crowded stage at the Buffalo Bar, there is an unmistakable buzz and energy. Tonight's show is a culmination of the week-long Artrocker festival and it seems the best has been saved for last.
With no material released as yet, all the hype surrounding the Brighton-based Foals stems from their live performances over the past year and it's not hard to see why. Foals' breed of math-punk disco-indie, peppered with urgent "new wave" punk shouty vocals from lead singer Yannis Philippakis, steers clear of chords and ordinary verse-chorus structure, and is catchy, compelling and ultra danceable. As of December, they are the newest signing to Transgressive Records, whose rosta includes notable new talent The Young Knives and Noisettes.
Foals kick off with "The French Open", an ode to American tennis player Andy Roddick. Philippakis sings with a compelling urgency echoing Kele Okereke's vocals in Bloc Party and Luke Jenner in The Rapture, and he knows how to dance.
Visually, the Greek-born singer is the trendiest, with his black hair and thick stubble and sporting a well-fitting orange-lined hoodie. Edwin Congreave, the most static as he plays the keyboard synth's groovy lines, bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Elliott Smith, wearing a Fifties style cherry red cardigan over stripy shirt and stern fringe. Bassist Walter Gervers and guitarist Jimmy Smith, in polo shirts and plimsolls, would blend comfortably into the environs of a college bar.
Each member bears a look of sheer concentration. While Smith is hunched over his guitar, his back to the crowd, Philippakis sings sideways, cupping his hands around the microphone, as if shouting into a loudspeaker.
But it's 21-year-old drummer Jack Bevan in a bubblegum-pink T-shirt who astounds as he cracks the erratic beats. His timing is tight and impeccable throughout. He sets the punk-disco techno beat of "Balloons" before the triple-layered guitars come in, working together and interweaving lines of intricate staccato notes, in electro angular harmonies.
The synth and guitar working, sometimes forming polyrhythmic patterns which fit together (albeit in weird ways), draws comparisons with their post-punk peers Battles. The precise guitar picking, played high on the fret board, is designed to sound like insects. It's a strange effect that takes some precise engineering. And it's the antithesis of messy music.
This technical precision illuminates their obsession with maths: a luminous sticker on the synth reads "Math is for Everyone" while their final song of tonight's set is called "Mathletics".
While they have described themselves as critical of each other in their drive for technical perfection, Philippakis, who at 20 is the youngest member, is a self-professed obsessive compulsive when it comes to sonic tidiness. It's this perfectionism that he displays at the beginning of tonight's set, emphatically demanding "more guitar".
Then when he breaks two guitar strings in the second song, proceedings are again paused. Bevan, clearly burning to get the gig going, ruffles his hair in frustration. But an instrumental filler passed off as a "jam", metamorphoses into an outstanding bass- led instrumental.
Later in the set, Gervers' bass line in "Hummer" is as catchy and post-punk as The Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers". This is music in which rhythm drives the sound.
Foals create a live energy that most dance music lacks, and tonight have proved themselves to be one of the most promising bands to emerge in 2007.Reuse content