Photo Credit: Tom Oxley
I rarely had so little to say about an album as Oxford band Foals’ seventh album Life Is Yours, so let’s hear what the band has to say about it. “We wanted to write music that would be a forcefield against the darkness, rather than try to proselytize people,” singer Yannis Philippakis told NME in an interview. Unfortunately, the album quickly unfolds as one of these albums best consumed in small doses, an album drowning in its own artificial energy, getting lost in shimmering synths and skippy choruses, and one that never leaves room to catch your breath and contemplate.
The album cover makes me think of New Order’s 1982 debut album Power, Corruption & Lies, and likewise, the alternative dance sound is reminiscent of the more synth-infused areas of the early ‘80s British new wave sound, recalling groups such as Duran Duran, ABC, Depeche Mode, and The Human League. However, what Foals lack on Life Is Yours is the crunchy rock elements of Duran Duran, the density of a really good Trevor Horn production, Depeche’s catchy keyboard lines, and the timeless romanticism of The Human League. What’s left is a polished surface and a band running comfortably on autopilot delivering an album that sounds good, but which ultimately proves forgettable.
Due to their similar sound, it’s hard indeed to pick a favorite among these eleven tunes. The most memorable tunes are strategically positioned on Side-A. “Wake Me Up” and “Life Is Yours” opens the album leaving no doubts about the group’s intentions, and “2am” follows in the same path – albeit a little quirkier, a little funkier. The second side is a little murkier, with songs such as “Flutter” and “Under the Radar” turning their back on Duran Duran’s sun-soaked Rio in favor of a late ‘80s Depeche Mode sound.
If I would have to pick one favorite, I’d go for “2001” – an upbeat piece of a joyous disco-inspired orgy of choreographed handclaps and a pretty good Niles Rodgers-riff keeping it all together. “I’ve been waiting all day inside // Waiting for the summer sky,” Yannis Philippakis sings and makes me think that this album is probably made for one reason and one reason only – as a jam for your 42-minute road trip to the beach. Turns out I’m wrong again. “This is our idea of a going out record,” Yannis told NME in that same interview. “We were thinking about parties, club nights, and being drunk on the bus at 2am trying to get home.”
I have always been somewhat reserved about bands releasing going out records seven albums in as their band members approach their forties, and though there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the excess of youth, one would have hoped that their collection of memories to draw inspiration from would at least result in sharper lyrics. “It’s 2am and I’ve gone and lost my friends // But I can’t sleep alone // No, I can’t sleep alone, I just want to go home,” Yannis sings in “2am” and it’s as vague as it’s unoriginal. Sounds more like Foals’ idea of a “going home alone drunk on a bus record.”