It’s impossible to bottle up the weird intangible energy of a perfect debut album, but everyone knows what it feels like. Nowadays, it’s a keyboard scrabble. Pre-streaming days, albums involved a great deal of scurrying. First, down to the nearest record shop, crisp banknote firmly in hand. Then, the dash home to rip off the plastic, and the race to digest the whole thing in one go. It’s safe to say that a lot of excitable scurrying took place on the 24th March 2008.
Officially, 2008 was International Year of the Potato, and it was also the year that the recession officially took root with the collapse of Northern Rock. Ask a lot of people, though, and they’ll remember it as the year that Foals came bowling on in and knocked through the stalemate. Shaking music up irreversibly, and clattering into indie’s banging hangover with direct vengeance, ‘Antidotes’ was brash and exciting, with just a mild streak of self-assured arrogance. Bursting with muscular rolling snares and pealing horns, sparse and slightly agitated guitar lines, and abstracted choruses custom-manufactured for yelling, it is a debut that demands to be listened to.
‘Antidotes’ was a debut that marched into the middle of the civilised status-quo, stood on a chair, and yelled “this is how it’s going to be now”.
In the year preceding ‘Antidotes,’ established bands were leading the way in releasing some of the best albums of their entire careers. Animal Collective hit a new stride with ‘Strawberry Jam’, and from Radiohead came the matchless ‘In Rainbows’. Meanwhile, the bands that lit up the turn of the millennium with the bright light of new potential were settling into a more comfortable groove, and the scene that Foals emerged from was still on slightly rocky ground. Despite the Mercury victory of The Klaxons’ ‘Myths of the Near Future’ in 2007, and the growing momentum of The Maccabees, it was still early days for the mid-noughties kids with fidgeting guitars, and restless time signatures; still at risk of meeting the same fad-death fate as nu-rave (may it rest in peace). Emerging around the same time as Late of the Pier’s only record ‘Fantasy Black Channel’, Foals spearheaded the guitar revolution. ‘Antidotes’ was the record that seemed to cement it all, and like all albums with longevity, it not only had timing on its side, but went on to dictate the future.
Urgency and escapism are the two flitting creatures of ‘Antidotes’. Foals are always searching for a way to disappear into thin air, at least until tomorrow, when things might improve. Yannis Philippakis sprints between slogans and manifestos, and whether he’s repeatedly regurgitating a Lacoste advert throughout first track ‘The French Open’- “un peu d’air sur la terre,” - or yelping about love being an exhaustible fuel on ‘Balloons,’ there’s a desperate, clawing naivety at the centre, a desire to stop the poison and cure the pain. Despite all of Philippakis’ acerbic snarling, there’s a detached glossiness to ‘Antidotes’, too, a sort of cold, clinical bedside manner. It’s only exacerbated by drummer Jack Bevan, who fuels the entire record with a mechanical, methodically constructed pulse.
It’s fair to say that after ‘Antidotes’, Foals progressed onto grander, showier - and perhaps more accomplished - things. Foals’ second album ‘Total Life Forever’ honed the chaos into something far more concentrated and muscular, and by the time ‘Holy Fire’ came around, things had taken a turn towards the devastatingly apocalyptic. ‘Antidotes’, though, is a perfect unstoppable debut. Hungry to lead the next generation of festival headliners, and sure that they could take the world by storm, Foals’ fierce debut longings to fill every inch of air turned out to be infectious - and, more than just a little bit self-prophesying. Marking the wildly ambitious entrance of Foals, ‘Antidotes’ was a debut that marched into the middle of the civilised status-quo, stood on a chair, and yelled “this is how it’s going to be now”.
For DIY’s full Hall of Fame coverage on Foals’ ‘Antidotes’, head here.
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