One song in to Foals' set at Birmingham Academy last night and, during a great show of lights and leaps from singer Yannis Philippakis, the guitarist's amp blew. A failure of substance behind a bright presentation provides a convenient metaphor for the band's output. With choppy rhythmic devices and appearances in Channel 4's Skins and on Kitsune Maison compilations it would be easy to slap Foals with the label of 'sound of a generation.' Easy, were it not the case that these appearances are just that, a veneer of invention that masks the lack of originality or excitement in their songs.
However, 'all style and no substance' is a familiar accusation for pop acts, and something that has been dealt with by a variety of argumentative stances, including the idea of the necessary uselessness of art and, less esoterically, the amount of enjoyment and meaning that pop music brings to vast amounts of people. The latter was certainly evident last night as the student-heavy crowd lapped up all the band had to offer, you can only hope that they weren't all taking it too seriously.
As if arguments such as the necessary uselessness of art and the creation of meaning and enjoyment for others weren't enough, support act Holy Fuck provided a polar opposite to Foals' pop posturing. At the beginning of their set I was most excited about hearing lead single Lovely Allen live, but when it arrived, inevitably as an encore, it sounded weak in comparison to the brilliance of the rest of the set. There were no unnecessary distractions; the band members faced each other as if reluctant to leave a pre-gig huddle, and vocals were kept to a bare minimum, filtered and distorted. This meant that the expansive and carefully layered mixture of crystal-clear melodies, wailing electronics and primal rhythms, was everything. There was a sense that the audience could have stumbled in accidentally to a throbbing, dusty room where the band had been playing all day, and would carry on regardless.
A set containing tracks as insistently amazing as The Pulse, however, should be heard by as many people as possible, so it can only be a good thing if a few more of Birmingham's students found themselves inadvertently crashing Holy Fuck's commune.