Foster The People are a funny old band. They released their seminal debut Torches in 2011 (which still has pride of place in my top 5 albums of all time), and with that came the release of ‘Pumped Up Kicks’, their breakthrough track. If you think you’ve never heard Foster The People, you have – you’ve definitely heard ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ at least once in your life. Their sophomore release Supermodel lacked the same brilliance as Torches (although ‘Best Friend’ from the album is potentially their best track of their entire catalogue). They did the usual touring circuit of shows and festivals, and then seemingly dropped off the face of the earth.
In April, they quietly re-emerged after almost three years, dropping an EP of three tracks (creatively titled III) ‘Pay The Man’, ‘Doing It For The Money’ and ‘SHC’, which transpired to be the first three songs on Sacred Hearts Club, their third album. Sacred Hearts Club sees Foster The People getting back on their game after their sophomore wobble.
Something that immediately presents itself is the positive vibes that radiate from Sacred Hearts Club. ‘Static Space Lover’ skips along with a cheerful, spirited spring in its step and ‘I Love My Friends’ has a chorus with lyrics that sound a little like something taken directly from the ‘Wholesome Memes’ Facebook page (“I love my friends / I love my friends / We’ve got each other / Don’t need no others”).
‘Lotus Eater’ sees them take off in a different direction to their usual, and the risk pays off. When I saw them recently at Somerset House, they played this track, and it sounded so unusual from what I’d expect, I thought it was a cover of another band. This fast, guitar-driven track is exuberant and exciting, and for me, the highlight of the album. It also somehow delightfully flows into ‘Time To Get Closer’, the slow, indulgent, just under a minute-long track that follows.
‘Sit Next To Me’ is also a real standout song, a gentle groove with slow verses building up to a swaying chorus. Experimentation is evident throughout Sacred Hearts Club, and a lot of the time, the results are superb.
‘SHC’ is the Torches-esque track I’ve been hoping they’d start making again, and it’s arguably the best from the trio of III. ‘Pay The Man’, the album’s opener, also has the distinctive sound that Foster The People has cultivated.
‘Loyal Like Sid & Nancy’ was a huge disappointment when I first heard it as a standalone track, but in the context of the whole of Sacred Hearts Club, it works. It feels like the seeds of Foster The People’s sound watered with the good aspects of Supermodel and left to grow in the sun, giving rise to something much much better.
Some tracks are disappointing, including the vocal-less, less than 90 second long filler track ‘Orange Dream’, where if it was missing, you wouldn’t notice, and ‘Harden The Paint’, which almost feels like a parody of Supermodel, but overall the excellence of the rest of the album negates these tracks.
For me, Sacred Hearts Club doesn’t live up to the heady heights of Torches, but it outshines Supermodel by far. It’s by no means perfect, but Sacred Hearts Club is absolutely a success.By Lucy McLaughlin