After Foals scrapped the mix of their debut, Antidotes, by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, it was clear that they were a band that was interested in creating their own sound. That sentiment may be why their follow-up, Total Life Forever, sounds more like a reaction to their first record than a continuation of it. Many of the elements that drove Foals into the spotlight in the first place are definitely still in place. There’s plenty of cascading, Minus the Bear-style guitar work and funky Talking Heads influence in their math-pop-meets-the-dancefloor rhythms. What’s missing is the edge. Total Life Forever is considerably more subdued than its predecessor, lacking much of the uptempo thump found on Antidotes. In its place is a mellower, more spacious sound. While this new sound is still danceable, it’s far more refined than the angular post-punk riffing that fans might be expecting. Right from the beginning, the album-opening, “Blue Blood” makes it clear that Foals are taking a different, more patient approach to songwriting, letting the song build and build on itself as it methodically works itself into a frenzy before leaving the way it came in. Because of the changes here, fans of the early, pre-Antidotes singles may find Total Life Forever to be too restrained, lacking the youthful vigor of their debut. Where some see restraint, others may very well see refinement, and those who appreciated Antidotes' more spacy passages will find that Foals' reinvention of their sound is a calculated risk that definitely pays off.
AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney