The pretty little Japanese garden guitar motif marking Foals’s re-entry to planet Earth is a total red herring. Because “Inhaler” crunches hard—and frontman Yannis Philippakis’s anger, brewing and fomenting during the first verse, soon surfaces as an uncontrolled wave of rage in the sweltering, breath-taking pre-chorus ramp-up.
And, speaking of rage, there’s a Morello cherry of a riff in the chorus. Over it, Philippakis indulges in everyone’s teenage thrash-metal fantasy (especially in live performances, as seen here), while all manner of intergalactic firework noises pierce through the mix. It’s a huge statement of intent for a band who usually trade in intricacy and atmosphere—this is more stratosphere.
And then, turning on a sixpence, it reverts to the slinky template of the verse. The song structure may be traditional, but the changes of direction in those segments—especially the bruising, deconstructed breakdown at the end—are not.
“So can you not go away / If just for one day… Cos I can’t get enough… space!” That’s what Philippakis asks for in the chorus. Now look at the names behind the production desk for Holy Fire, the forthcoming album from which “Inhaler” is taken. Flood and Moulder made their name on big-budget Eighties and Nineties alternative rock albums where singers like Billy Corgan, Trent Reznor and Dave Gahan moaned with mopey angst. If Total Life Forever recalled the gloopy art-rock of 4AD releases, maybe Holy Fire is in thrall to the era’s Mute Records contemporaries. There’s definitely something about the unhinged crashing tone of the drums that’s unafraid to hit the red-zone and reverberate out to the bleachers. And there’s that album title, named for the Greek Orthodox miracle.
I’m not going to be presumptuous and say Holy Fire sees Foals reaching for the stadium. Certainly not when you hear “Inhaler” in the context of the other song to have been previewed from it: “My Number” is exactly the kind of easygoing, breathy funk that kept Talking Heads sounding best in a club. But “Inhaler” is a big, swaggering tune.
“Inhaler” by Foals is taken from the forthcoming album Holy Fire, to be released on 11th February 2013, on Transgressive Records.