After the international chart success of 2013's Holy Fire, Foals officially embrace that album's rich, atmospheric post-punk revivalism over the rawer math rock tendencies of earlier LPs for their fourth full-length, What Went Down. Only ghostly traces of math rock remain on the album, such as when sustained synths wash over interlocking drum-guitar meters on the closer, "A Knife in the Ocean." The majority of the record avoids any prior levels of intricacy, opting instead for intense airiness in the form of passionate, danceable ruminations. Above all, the album is driving; even at relatively sleepier moments, drums kick in as if on cue and set any lost momentum back on track ("Give It All"). Vocalist Yannis Philippakis pushes his voice harder than ever before here, both in terms of range and strain, and his ability to at times resonate like Ian Curtis and soar like Bono is no small feat. The sparkling, rockin' title-track opener introduces his yowl with a clamoring swagger throughout the instrumentation, and with lyrics like "I buried my guilt in a pit in the sound/With the rust and the vultures and the trash downtown." Also vigorous, the particularly post-punky, motoric "Snake Oil" later plows straight into the lighter but rhythmically locomotive-like "Night Swimmers." There are calmer moments, like the slower, more spare "London Thunder ("I'm on the red-eye flight to nowhere good"), but the album's intensity and pulse remain. Ultimately, What Went Down should please fans of Holy Fire, and they may not be the only ones drawn to its gloomy and persistent energy.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson