For What Went Down (Warner Music), the follow-up to Foals’ career-defining album, Holy Fire, the Oxford, UK quintet decamped to Saint-Remy-de-Provence in the South of France with über-producer James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Mumford and Sons, Haim) to record at La Fabrique, the early 19th century farm-turned-recording studios.
The uncensored lyricism on What Went Down is more personal than anything previously written. Embarking on the writing process right on the heels of endless touring for Holy Fire, What Went Down captures those feelings raw and spits them out the same way. The incensed garage-rock noise of the title track, also the first single, signals a change in direction for the group. This proves misleading as the tone changes immediately with the next song, the pretty “Mountain At My Gates.” This fluctuation between aggression and submission is a running theme on What Went Down. For every angry grinding number, “Snake Oil,” there is an antidotal, melodious soother, “Night Swimmers”—almost like the group knows it needs to provide a reprieve from the intensity of its heavy songs.
What Went Down settles into itself toward the last third of the album, where the extremes are tempered, giving way to jangly, pop-friendly songs such as “London Thunder” and “Lonely Hunter.”
All songs written by Foals; Yannis Philippakis: guitar and vocals, Jack Bevan: drums, Jimmy Smith: guitar and keys, Walter Gervers: bass and vocals, Edwin Congreave: keys. Additional keys, guitar, and percussion: James Ford. Produced by James Ford, engineered by Jimmy Robertson at La Fabrique Studios, France. Studio assistant: Damien Arlot. Mixed by Alan Moulder at Assault & Battery, London. Mix assistant: Caesar Edmunds. Mastered by John Davis at Metropolis London.