Verdict: Out with the annoying, in with the epic
This is the follow-up to the Oxford hip-shakers and knee-jerkers' accomplished but sometimes hard-going debut, Antidotes, from 2008. There's nothing awkward or obnoxious about Total Life Forever, with its cascading soundscape-like songs that unfold elegantly and effortlessly.
Spanish Sahara is a seven-minute song that starts out smouldering and fragile before it intensifies into a Chemical Brothers-meets-Coldplay mash-up and love-in. While that might not sound appealing, the bleeps and beats are as stirring as the Chemical Brothers' Song To the Siren, and Total Life Forever has the same epic swirl of Coldplay's last album. The difference is Foals have a darker post-punk intensity which gives them a more menacing edge.
On Miami, singer Yannis Philippakis comes across overwrought yet cute like The Cure's Robert Smith, Black Gold has a lush and trembling ambience while also recalling the camp glitch and groove of Human League's Dare-era tunes; and speaking of the 80s, the title track has some clean and clear vocals, chinking guitar, and tinkling keyboards, that's a throwback to something like ABC's Lexicon Of Love.
The first half of the album is faultless, but centrepiece This Orient reveals the first sign of obnoxiousness and cheesiness. The album falls back into line with the crisp industrial beats of Alabaster, and the primal flailing of What Remains. But it's Spanish Sahara that's the gem here.