Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley and Paul Fyfe
A hand sometimes just draws. It closes around a pencil or marker or a crayon and just absently scrawls, orchestrated and worked by the unconscious mind that keeps everything a guessing game. It throws a line out there and then plays fetch with it, often curling back and formulating a familiar shape or design, something that just comes out of the movement and motion, the touch of an ink or lead upon parchment. It comes and goes without any kind of responsibility or testament - just leaving a trace and some blindsided graffiti to try and figure out when you've got a few hours. There's that kid with the broken leg again, there's that equine sequence that you're sick of, there are those nuns twirling parasols and there are those speech bubbles or human hearts. It's the hearts that we've got to discuss here in terms that make sense in regards to the Oxford, England band Foals.
They make it easy on the man at the typewriter. There's a different man on the cover of the band's Sub Pop debut album Antidotes who has a gaping mouth, and where the wax lips should go for the comedic effect is a collage-like jumble of pills, buttons and hearts. One's for protection, one's for ailments and the other needs protection. There's a lot of worry over these heart things - as if they have absolutely no defenses built into their mechanics, as if they could all get wiped clean away and off into nowhere with any kind of stiff wind or cross word.
The inside of the album's cover flap is covered with another ten hearts - taken from the pages of old medical notebooks and guidebooks, showing the kinds of details in fragile lines that were expected in antiquated illustrations back around the turn of the previous century, when Babe Ruth was first learning to swing a bat and Mark Twain was going through his winter years. They carry an importance that we'll likely ever know, but what hearts aren't important. Severed from just a bit of what they need and they throw fits. Those little organs decide to just shut down and thems curtains, it's the end of the line. They take all else with them - the legs and the mouth that suddenly has no power to scream.
Foals lead singer Yannis Philippakis concerns himself with these kinds of predicaments - what it might take to burst one, explode it completely out of its casing. He brings up various ways that the destruction could be done on Antidotes, letting them float around in shallow waters with electrical appliances and science fictional scariness. There are vampires that need slaying and scary, nuclear warhead-wielding sharks casing the situation. There are the sensationalized extremes of how much one person can have a heart beaten on and by what means, and the jamming, psychedelic epicness of the world that Foals build around Philippakis' lyrics goes to show that everything can be on a razor's edge and loony as well.
The night before they arrived here, Philippakis said that he'd been exhaustingly corralled by a freaky girl in Chicago who - while his bandmates were dancing and clubbing until the low-numbered hours of the night following their show - bored him, without mercy about descriptions of her anti-depression medication and more. This could be - times like this - when many of the disconnected phrases and conspiracies that Philippakis has rumbling around in his head at any given time turn from tangents and granules to the main thoroughfare and solidify into these wickets that he's then able to portal through and turn on the full experiment.
Elsewhere on Antidotes, Philippakis sings, "Just another hospital" and the way it comes out of his mouth makes it sound as if he were saying "heart spittoon," and then all of the thoughts and explanations are shuffled, sharing reflections and mirror images. There's heart abuse. They get spit on or spit out to ring the side of a golden container that also holds tobacco juices and slobber. Just another hospital…the phrase makes the visits seem often and it makes them seem unnecessary. It's part of living and part of dying, the in-between section might be where Foals have the most real estate - when those hearts aren't giving out, just causing fits.
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Foals Official Site
Sub Pop Records