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Maturity, we all go through it. And guess what, bands do as well with some fairly varying effects. It hardly seems that long ago Foals were the poster boys for the Skins generation, slowly leading the youth out of the day-glo musical revolution and into some calmer, chilled-out seas while still having a whole load of fun doing it. 8/9 years later, here Foals are with an album that sounds so mature in every, single way.

Think back to the Foals of Antidotes and chaotic is probably the most apt description of the band's music, from the pure energy dripping off each song to the polyrhythms everything about Foals on that album felt like a musical clusterfuck in the best of ways. Listening to What Went Down and directly comparing it to Antidotes, it's quite remarkable to hear the changes to the band's sound, how they've managed to strip away a layer that seemed so integral to their appeal and their very makeup but keep getting bigger and better in both their craft and their popularity. In isolation, What Went Down would be jarring but this isn't really a complete about turn for Foals, Total Life Forever introduced us to a band that enough had ambition and ability to not have to rely on one sure sound while Holy Fire saw Foals consolidate and continue some of those ideas on Total Life Forever, and in doing so polished and shined some rough edges. With the chaos completely jettisoned Foals have filled that rather sizeable void with a keen focus on the harder, more direct numbers and a big, big reliance on textures on pretty much all the other numbers, with those soundscapes sounding much bigger and more powerful than on previous releases because there doesn't seem to be anything else getting in the way of them. The music on 'London Thunder' has an emptiness and a certain sense of longing to it which doesn't just accompany the loneliness of Yannis Philippakis' lyrics, it elevates them to an even stronger feeling of desolation. 'A Knife In The Ocean' is everything an album closer should be; epic, ambitious, grandiose, a little bit dangerous, brooding and a closing statement that ties every separate thread previously found on the album together. It contains all those different musical moods and mashes them all together to produce an obvious but excellent end point to the album.

That focus allows Foals to create some remarkable moments out of something so simple. There's no more clutter for the melodies to have to cut through to get higher in the mix and so those melodies shine brightly. 'Mountain At My Gates' isn't just a fantastically written pop song, it's the most beautiful thing the band have ever written and I'd be entirely surprised if they can go one better on any subsequent album. The melodies are ridiculously uplifting and tied to Philippakis' lyrics the song becomes bigger than the sum of its parts into something inspiring. 'What Went Down' has an incredible edge to it, that metal-like sound that kept popping up on Holy Fire refined and honed into something simple, brutal and incredibly effective. As an album opener it doesn't quite showcase what the rest of What Went Down is going to be literally, Foals are always going to be diverse, but it does give the listener a figurative taste; the rest of the album isn't all fuzzed-up chorus' and bile-driven vocals, however, it is focused with Foals picking the moments they want to emphasise and emphasising them to the hills and back. In that sense it is so important to What Went Down.

There's always a sense of worry that once a band loses its chaotic edge, its youthful exuberance, it takes a step back, but this isn't quite the case with Foals on What Went Down. True, the album has some big similarities with those that came before but rather than being seen as stagnation this is quite obviously a band starting down a path to grow, explore, refine and ultimately discover who they are, and seeing that through to what could be the end. It just so happens Foals have been lucky enough to make music that sounds the business and stayed the course over multiple albums rather than taking the chameleon approach to each album. There's a great sense of cohesiveness to What Went Down and that's because the band are adding little bits here and there to stuff they've already tried out before and know that those foundations work. In a way, What Went Down comes across as a culmination in the same way Physical Graffiti did for Led Zeppelin; a multi-album journey. Sure, if Foals don't go anywhere new from here then there's scope to use the word stagnation but until then, we're witnessing a band cementing themselves as the best, brightest and most interesting pop band Britain has produced for a long time, and it sounds so good.

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