Joshua Edwards greets SU:Media with a hilarious review of Foals' performance at The Eden Sessions.
I remember when Foals 'arrived.' I recall the NME had a real hard-on for them, putting them on the cover. They stood there, poe faced and skinny, their hair the right kind of floppy, their beards the right kind of unkempt. In big letters it announced them as the saviors of the Indy scene, as the Vines had been before them. Or the Libertines. Or later the Klaxons. Etc, etc. Inside, they described themselves as math-rock and said things like they didn't believe in songwriting; they just let the songs happen organically.
I decided that I thought they were pretentious and I didn't like them. They took themselves too seriously. And besides, I had been educating myself through my teens, reading up on the American Hardcore scene, ingesting every Sonic Youth record one by one by one and watching documentaries about the history of Punk. I knew music.
Then I heard Cassius. It was jagged yet melodic, like Steve Albini fronting Teenage Fanclub. I dug it, but in secret; I had already loudly proclaimed that Foals were hipster rubbish to anyone that would listen. A little while after that, I stopped reading NME and Foals fell off my radar.
Jump forward almost a decade and I am presented the opportunity to see them play the Eden project by the wonderful people at (cheap plug) SU:Media. I had not heard anything by them since that first single, except maybe a background airing of some new single on Radio 6 as I washed up. Friends whose music taste I respect had talked about them in good favor, so I took the press passes and one of said friends.
Everything, Everything we learned were the support band as we passed the merch stand. Another name I had heard mentioned on Radio 6, they sounded fine as we queued for overpriced cider. What we did see of their set was an enjoyable slice of modern indy, all falsetto vocals and 80s throwback synth. They also were wearing matching costumes, making them seem like a boyband mutation of Devo. Their song No Reptiles contained the repeated lyrics: "It's alright to feel like a fat child in a pushchair". That song was very good, obviously. They dedicated a song to Foals as all polite support bands should, referring to them as their homeboys, which really made their Caucasian skin pop under the overcast Cornish sky.
Having overindulged a little on fermented apple juice, Foals came out at nine as dusk was setting in. Eden as a concert venue justifies itself most fully at night, living up to the quotation on all the session posters that "it's the closest you will get to seeing a gig on the moon", which I get. There's an otherworldliness to the place, like the imagined future in one of those brilliant 1970s sci-fi B-Movies. To their credit, Foals sounded huge, ably filling up the space provided them. The light show also complimented the mystical setting. There were moments where my hairs almost stood on end. But only almost.
Let me be clear, I find reviews difficult because, honestly, I believe one person’s opinion is only as important as anyone else's, which is to say they are completely irrelevant. I would never want to put anyone off any art and I respect the job of an artist too much to judge what they do. Just because I don't get the hype doesn't mean it isn't justified. But I just didn't get the hype.
I stood as an outsider, witnessing the millennials in ecstasy as they smoked joints and took selfies, whilst Foals churned out stadium bothering songs that to my ears all sounded fairly similar. Which isn't to say there wasn't moments of brilliance. The encore was electric, with both What Went Down and Two Steps, Twice made my blood surge with their fire and passion.
The band were passionate throughout. They were. I believed that they believed in what they were doing and they loved it. However, every so often Yannis (lead vocals and guitar) would take me out of it, asking the crowd "Are you ready?" or declaring that the band had "been waiting to play Cornwall for so fucking long." I didn't feel like I was watching a big time rock star, but a man pretending to be a big time rock star. (As a side note, it's worth mentioning that he spoke in a really thick London accent, which in itself is no problem. Maybe that's how he talks. I'm just saying that a lot of younger English bands talk that way...)
Fundamentally they were very good. Proficient, talented and all that. Perhaps I was just disappointed with the way that sounded. If you had played me a song by them and a song by Everything, Everything, I would be hard pressed to tell you which was which. There is a templated quality to this genre of music that I find generic. Perhaps my ears are too old or my sensibilities not adjusted. I'm not quite my father telling me Smashing Pumpkins were just noise yet. The promise that Cassius had all those years ago has morphed into a sound that is indicative of a lot of Foals peers, which is a shame given their intriguing and unique beginnings.
There are life changing gigs and there are abysmal gigs, and those you remember. This was sat somewhere in the middle. Would I see them again? Sure. Will I be reminiscing about this gig ten years from now? No, but there were plenty there who seemed utterly ecstatic to be there. I talked to a fellow gig goer about his thoughts. Matt Paxton of Exeter described them as "a bit Xfm, but much better than watching One Direction." After the concert, Matt grabbed me and said "To be fair, I was probably being a little harsh; I just saw Radiohead in Glastonbury so this pales in comparison."
Griping about the difference between good and life-changing is pretty entitled isn't it? But then so is reviewing I guess...