It would be a valiant attempt to prohibit myself from using the words “next,” “big,” and “thing,” in this review, but that’s not going to happen. As a buzzed-about young British band, Foals takes its place in that long line of acts whose debut albums have arrived on these shores with great expectations.
Throw in the fact that Antidotes was produced by TV on the Radio’s David Sitek, which gives Foals a ready-made measure of stateside legitimacy, and you’ve got a veritable hype storm brewing. Foals could break big, although it’s best to remember that Modest Mouse (a band whose jagged guitar work Foals is obviously familiar with) didn’t break through with its best work.
Yes, Antidotes does seem quite calculated to be hip in the here and now. Besides Sitek’s help, the album also features guest appearances from Antibalas’s horn section and Celebration’s Katrina Ford. In addition to the Modest Mouse influence, we can hear hints of world music, early U2 in the arpeggios of “Olympic Airways,” and dance rock from New Order to LCD Soundsystem in the buzzing static of “Electric Bloom.” If Sub Pop isn’t marketing this to modern rock radio, I don’t know why not; many a track off Antidotes is aggro enough to fit perfectly between Rage Against the Machine (the guitars on opener “The French Open” are particularly funk-rocky) and Linkin Park.
That’s not to say there isn’t much to enjoy here. The band isn’t just being pretentious when it name-drops Steve Reich as a hallmark. Foals can at times click into a lockstep, repetitive groove that recalls Reich or Philip Glass (thanks in no small part to those horn players on loan from Antibalas). “Heavy Water,” with its references to clouds and vampires, manipulates that special type of ennui that British bands (hello, Cure) do so well. And the instrumental “Like Swimming” has fun with handclaps and a sonic deconstruction that will have you thinking something is wrong with your CD player.
But that track comes toward the end of an album that has bogged down in redundancy. Two forgettable bonus tracks tacked on to Sub Pop’s U.S. edition of Antidotes don’t help on that score. We don’t need any more of what’s already here. What we need is for Foals to grow into a band that does more than reference its influences and recall its collaborators.