Ten years ago we were absolutely blessed. Oxford brought into the world one of the best indie bands around formed from fragmented parts of other groups and various friends. Since their formation, Foals have brought us four beautiful studio albums, a video album, six EPs, and nineteen singles/b sides. This is impressive even over a ten-year span. Today marks ten years since the release of their incredible debut album ‘Antidotes’ so it’s only fitting to take a look back.
The band had previously released singles ‘Hummer’ and ‘Mathletics’, ‘Hummer’ featuring on the tv drama ‘Skins’. After this the band recorded the album in New York, getting produced by TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek. After recording, the band mixed the album themselves to get exactly what they wanted, and it absolutely shows they knew what they wanted. The album entered the charts at number three which is incredible by most standards for a debut album. However, has it stood the test of time? Does it stand up now, and where does it fit with Foals as a band now?
Quite frankly I couldn’t speak more highly of this album. It was the first record I bought when I got my first student loan at university and it has remained a staple part of my collection. Opening with ‘The French Open’ Foals immediately set the tone for the album. Stranger time signatures, fast pacing, a different brand of indie altogether. I’ve always said Foals lyrics aren’t necessarily complicated, deep, or even the best, but are they good? Absolutely. Incredibly catchy and fun you couldn’t ask for more. They set themselves apart from the get go with ‘The French Open’ and it couldn’t have been more important. It’s easily a contender for best first song on a first album.
Bursting in with the second song is one sure to be on every fan’s list of their top Foals songs with ‘Cassius’. The track goes straight in, lyrics, guitar, drums, all at once, all perfect. Again incredibly catchy upbeat and fun indie music. Interjections of brass instruments are a theme on the album with almost ska influences and ‘Cassius’ surely shows this. Moving onto ‘Red Socks Pugie’, a stunning five minute drawn out track. With one of the most memorable drumming patterns, catchy lyrics to keep up the theme, and a vibe you’ll never get bored of. It was the first track I’d heard off the album and remains a favourite.
The A-side to the album continues with ‘Olympic Airways’ and ‘Electric Bloom’. Two tracks which absolutely keep the incredible pace of ‘Antidotes’ and its theme of catchy lyrics and this upbeat melancholic indie rock. ‘Balloons’ comes up next which featured on Zane Lowe’s final Radio 1 show, the entrance to the B-side couldn’t be more fitting for his departure and such an incredible open to the second half of the album.
Some people say that B-sides are the worse side to an album, with ‘Antidotes’ this couldn’t be more false. ‘Heavy Water’ scorches its way in, a slower, toned down track to give an incredible ebb and flow to the album. It builds up towards the end and helps build up to another of the debatably best tracks on the album ‘Two Steps, Twice’. The experimental indie that Foals consistently show is perfectly displayed in ‘Two Steps, Twice’. Playing around with time signatures, funky bass and repeating lyrics with layers of other vocals and guitar. Then the break and build up are only comparable to something like ‘The Chain’ by Fleetwood Mac. Drawing you up and hyping itself up before one of the most catchy sections of the whole album. I’ve found myself singing along this whole time but this main part of ‘Two Steps, Twice’ has captured my attention the most.
Mid B-Side and we’re being treated to the longest track on the album. It was my favourite for a long time but ‘Big Big Love (Fig. 2)’ has so many gorgeous layers to it. It’s clear to see how many bands have drawn inspiration from Foals, specifically this song, I’ve noticed aspects from various bands from tracks like this. It starts with a long instrumental intro before bass and vocals cut in. This is such a mellow track for an album that has boasted this fast-paced upbeat vibe and yet couldn’t fit better into place.
We’re moved on to final two tracks now ‘Like Swimming’ and ‘Tron’. ‘Like Swimming’ is an experimental instrumental track. No lyrics, but they’re not needed. This is almost a nice break although its move into ‘Tron’ does come as a bit of a shock with the beeping. You’ll know what I mean by the beeping if you listen to it. ‘Tron’ is possibly one of the best ways Foals could’ve ended the album. While I think it could’ve easily ended with ‘Big Big Love (Fig. 2)’, ‘Tron’ is a stunning amalgamation of everything this album is trying and succeeding at being. It’s an experimental, refined mess. It seems messy at a glance but everything is so perfectly put in place, so perfectly chosen and played precisely. ‘Tron’ rounds off one of the greatest debut albums to date.
This album could be released today and still hit high grades all round. It’s an absolute powerhouse of indie and experimental music. It set off the career of a band like no other. Foals have built on an incredible foundation and some would argue haven’t beaten it, but who cares. It’s a blessing to be able to listen to this ten years on and know it helped spark so much of modern indie and brought us an incredible band.
‘Antidotes’ you remain amazing. Ten years looks better on you than most.