seems to be in on a joke that the rest of us aren't supposed to get. On this new release, Foxygen
has taken their psychedelic revival sound and pushed it another step further, working with a 40-person orchestra to create a conceptual album based around the sounds of 1970's theatrical rock. This they accomplished very well. All the harmonies come through sounding like a brightly colored, highly tattered vinyl record on your mother's shelf. But this kind of retro sound is rarely sought after, which Foxygen seem to understand. At times they even seem to acknowledge that this was a hokey period in music history. Their tongue and cheek attitude peaks on "Upon A Hill" where they literally break out into a polka beat. By and large, it's an entertaining album, but when it stands alone, without the history that it tries to inhabit, the kitsch takes over and it becomes about how many 70's cliches they can fit into a 5 minute track.
On their past two albums, ...And Star Power
and We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic
they used a lo-fi psychedelic rock playbook which suited their needs very well. With Hang
however, they abandon their past humble garage sound and skip all the in between of music production. The overproduction on Hang
ends up hiding the songs and making it tough to enjoy. On their past records, they would often switch up the vibe and tailor the arrangement to the song, but it seems like they felt they had to keep the joke going and the listener unfortunately never gets a break.
One of the facets that made classic albums by Billy Joel, Elton John, and other songwriters of that period enticing, were the holes that they left. They would strip everything back and sing from honest space. They had the capability to do this because they weren't focused on being absorbed into something. They were making music not comparisons. The shtick and the Bowie/Reed impression refuse to take a break on this album. It's almost like Foxygen is more focused on being the most entertaining karaoke singer in the bar, rather than putting their own spin on this old sound.
They did a great job of creating their own sound on past albums when it wasn't overtly obvious who their influences were. Songs like "San Francisco" and "Shuggie" sounded retro, but they also had a very original and honest air to them. Then on Hang
, with songs like "Trauma," which are compositionally interesting and lyrically provocative, all meaning is lost when Sam France lays on the fake vibrato. The idea of Hang
ends up being more interesting than the record itself. The idea that this is a conceptual take on a dead sound is intriguing, but unfortunately the songs themselves succumb to this sound and are forced to take a back seat. Satire is rarely efficient in a long form product and about halfway through the record I wished the novelty and "humor" would just get lost.