In the glamorous and competitive world of music journalism, there are two kinds of interviews that are notoriously hard to land. First, there's the certified superstar. The time and energy it takes to land these interviews—traversing through handlers, managers, PR flacks, record execs and every other ass monkey associated with major labels—is seldom worth it in the end.
Then there's a band like Foals. They're undoubtedly the hot buzz of the moment, with everyone from Rolling Stone to The New York Times creaming over the Oxford, England, band's blend of math/dance/punk rock. And so it goes, with the buzz at a boil and Foals touring non-stop, securing an interview with singer Yannis Philippakis was simply too much to ask.
So why bother? Why sit here trying to find the perfect descriptor for Foals' ska-meets-white-boy-funk single “Cassius”? For the love of the game? My unflinching and unquenched love for music and the written word? Not really.
I do it because I love telling you what's good and what's not. Moreover, I live to tell you that your new favorite band sucks, how they are so two months ago (read: Vampire Weekend) and why the new band that I like is so much better. I am the living, breathing embodiment of music snobbery. If you mention that you like a band that I also enjoy, I'm the type of guy who will try to convince you they suck just to make things interesting.
Problem is, I actually like Foals' debut album, Antidotes. But, by using the logic mentioned above, I refuse to gush about how talented Foals are and how you should go see their show or buy their record. I will, however, tell you why they are talented, why you should see their show and why you should buy their album by cutting down your favorite buzz bands from the last eight years who were once in their place.
For starters, unlike Vampire Weekend, Foals don't look like the Nazi young Republicans who made fun of you in high school. Unlike Gnarls Barkley, they have more than one good song on their album. Unlike Arcade Fire, Foals aren't Mormons. Unlike The White Stripes, Foals has a drummer who can actually, you know, drum. Unlike Animal Collective, Foals actually play, you know, music. Unlike M.I.A., they don't sell their politically conscious music to a multinational corporation (Honda).
Furthermore, unlike The Libertines, probably no one from Foals will turn into a Kate Moss-courting junkie. Unlike Man Man, Pitchfork Media doesn't like Foals (which, by extension, means they're actually pretty good). Unlike Tapes 'n' Tapes and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Foals don't sound like they blew their whole wad on one album. Unlike fellow U.K. dance-rockers Franz Ferdinand, Foals can actually play their instruments. Unlike Cat Power, Foals' live shows are actually fun. Unlike Hot Chip, you can actually dance to Foals. Unlike The Rapture, Philippakis' voice doesn't resemble a pre-pubescent boy after his first whippet. Unlike TV on the Radio, Foals' music is good not just because it's “different.”
In addition, unlike The Hives, Foals are humble. Unlike Band of Horses, they won't yell and flip the bird to San Diego concertgoers. Unlike Beirut, they aren't rich kids posing as gypsies. Unlike Devendra Banhart, they're not nonsensical hippies who secretly hang out with Lindsay Lohan. Unlike Iron & Wine, not all their songs sound the same. Unlike The Strokes, they're not blatantly ripping off The Velvet Underground. Unlike Interpol, they're not blatantly ripping off Joy Division. Unlike She Wants Revenge, they're not blatantly ripping off Interpol ripping off Joy Division. Unlike Rilo Kiley, Foals' singer hasn't kissed Fred Savage. Unlike Spoon, Foals use horns as part of their overall sound, not because the singer ran out of ideas.
Unlike Art Brut and The Hold Steady, Philippakis' lyrics aren't just wankerish bitching. Unlike fellow math geeks like Battles and Mars Volta, you don't need to be stoned to enjoy Foals' music. Unlike Modest Mouse, Foals don't need to hire a washed-up old guitarist to make what is essentially the same crappy album. Unlike Feist, Philippakis doesn't have supermodel looks to make up for his mediocre voice.
Unlike The Decemberists, you don't need a dictionary or an encyclopedia to appreciate Philippakis' lyrics. Unlike Death Cab for Cutie, Foals aren't a corporate-rock band posing as the kings of indie rock. Unlike Arctic Monkeys, they don't suck. And, unlike every other buzz band out there, they don't have the word “Wolf,” “Bear,” “Team” or “Fuck” as part of their name.
All that said, I now officially don't like Foals. Why? Because Pomegranates and No Age are so much better. Haven't you heard of them? Foals perform at 8 p.m. Sunday, May 25, with Crocodiles at Brick by Brick. 619-275-5483. www.myspace.com/foals.