Total Life Forever: forever and ever

By Harleen Sehmi

Total Life Forever is what happens when five young English musicians decide to go underground (literally) into a cellar of aesthetic seclusion, only to emerge with a set of eleven solidly-crafted tracks that are easy on most ears. Foals, comprising Yannis Phillppakis (lead vocals and guitar), Edwin Congreave (keyboard), Jimmy Smith (guitar), Jack Bevan (drums) and Walter Gervers (bass), resurface after a two-year break with this second album.

They met while at school in Oxford and dabbled separately in a number of local bands before coming together to form the highly acclaimed Foals. Total Life Forever is their second offering to their devoted fans and the rest of the world (released May 2010), with their debut album Antidotes having been released just two years prior in early 2008.

Antidotes established Foals as a significant member of the indie/ math rock sub-genre, embodied by angular and dissonant guitars and unusual rhythms. However, with this album, they shed significant aspects of their math rock persona without losing their original signature funk, thus revealing melodic depth and lyrical insight. It represents a fusion of Foals as they were known by Antidotes, a new producer and Philippakis’s mounting interest in Futurology and The Theory of Singularity.

The title itself is drawn directly from the theory, which holds that our efforts of creating artificial intelligence will eventually trigger the destruction of the human race…by robots. Yes, robots. Even Philippakis, in an interview with Clash Magazine, admits that it is a far-fetched claim, but still writes in the title song, “Total life forever, will never be enough, no/ Singularity is here to stay”.

Departing from the complexities of their math rock roots, Foals attempt to venture into new waters with tracks like Spanish Sahara and Alabaster Lover, which have an almost Radiohead-sense about them. It is a definite growth in the best of directions, as evidenced by the Mercury Prize nomination the band received for Album of the Year 2010. Another strength of the album lies in its attempt to balance out their new experimental songs with ones that their listeners are used to, like Miami. However, other songs fade into each other, and are unable to stand out as much as Spanish Sahara, which was used in the season 4 finale trailer of Skins.

The album is a musical treat, with gentler, more subdued and pleasantly engaging instrumentation and vocals, as compared to Antidotes. Total Life Forever will not force you to keep listening to a track on the basis of a catchy guitar rhythm as did a few in their debut album. Despite being a fan of the band’s original choppy guitars in Antidotes, I had this album playing on repeat. One listen is not enough. At least not if you want to understand exactly what it is that Philippakis is trying to say about robots, but also because once you’ve visited the Spanish Sahara you want to keep going back.


Watch this interview to learn more about the band and what inspired their new album.

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