“To anybody who knows us (who) feels any bad feelings about Foxygen’s ‘successes,’” says a recent post on the band’s Facebook page, “[…] it only seems like we’re ‘making it’ or ‘going places’ on the internet, so get off your computer and record some music.” It could be a stretch, but maybe that reveals something about the epicenter of Foxygen’s musical ideology. The Californian duo of Sam France and Jonathan Rado twist the hell out of a familiar British Invasion blueprint as it suits them, dressing it up with candid brain-flow lyrics and a lust for misleading your expectations. We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic is turbulent creativity stuffed into a mold of vintage pop rock, barely holding it all together while lurching along a line between safety and madness—recommended listening for anyone mourning some perceived end of rock ‘n’ roll.
The first two songs of the album—straightforward, mellow—are two of the best, but belie an approaching torrent of free-wheeling indulgence in which tempos swap, structures melt, and France’s vocal performances rev into a stream-of-consciousness freak-out, like Kevin Barnes being tempered into shape with Jack White’s bluster. Tracks such as “On Blue Mountain” and leadoff single “Shuggie” swap tempos and moods in bipolar fashion, with downtrodden verses suddenly picking up speed and launching into exuberant refrains. Other loops taken are more subtle: The wonderful “San Francisco,” for instance, is veiled as a polite Kinks-like tune of schmaltzy reminiscence, trussed with glockenspiel, before a priceless chorus (“I left my love in San Francisco/That’s okay, I was bored anyway”) totally inverts the sentimental mood. Little things.
I couldn’t find a boring, robotic bassline or mailed-in lyric on this album. Painstaking attention to the minor details in all regards—production as well, dolled up with psyched-out keyboard flourishes, clever talk-backs, and my favorite drum sound in recent memory—will keep this one in my stereo for a long time. The titular song, oozing with genuine petulant son-of-a-bitch swagger, sums up the vitality behind Foxygen’s latest, fueled with abhorrence for misery and disillusionment. It’s welcome at a time when popular rock music seems to be taking a lethargic slide towards the gutless.
In A Word: YES