...And Star Power
latest offering, possesses a certain classic charm. Here is the rare concept album that's confident enough to tells its story not through straightforward narrative lyrics, but via sound; makes its tale known by the inclusion of intentional technological artifacts, such as the sounds of popping and scratching; the way each song seems to be taking place on the same radio station; and the range of musical styles on display.
The band is undeniably versatile. Their musical adaptability is apparent in the way they effortlessly switch from the pitch-perfect Stooges impersonation in "Can't Contextualize My Mind" to the bathetic Beatles balladeering of "Hang," and the way vocalist Sam France manages to twist his voice from a MoTown falsetto in "How Can You Really" to a Lou Reed purr in "Star Power II: Star Power Nite." Foxygen may even hew too
closely to their idols' sounds and times. Their songs are so slavish in their imitations that they could easily be mistaken for lost demos from these bands.
There is a thematic thrust to this mimicry. There's a sense that Foxygen might be trying to insert themselves into the pop canon by association with these older acts, or that maybe this is a post-modern manifesto about how all pop music is, at its base, little more than a souped-up version of what is now past (there's a radio clip at the end of "Cold Winter/Freedom" which references how Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath recordings will resonate through space for eternity).
There are moments of genius despite the frustrating closeness to the classics, moments found when the band reaches beyond the strictures and structures of their forebears and cuts loose with beautiful racket. Just listen to the cacophony of "Cold Winter/Freedom," a melange of noises loud and quiet, tones low and high, so ramped up with feedback and distortion that for a second it sounds like the band is picking up where Sun 0)))) left off and is actually moving a whole style of music forward. "Wally's Farm" plays with a different kind of noise, generated by psychedelic, dubby twists and turns on the organ and the trumpet; it's a fantastic bit of nonsense that somehow slipped off of a future Hirokazu Tanka soundtrack. No, neither track is suis generis
, but they demonstrate that Foxygen have the potential to build off of other musical styles rather than simply wallow in them.
Watch the lonesome party video for "Could Have Been My Love," below:
... And Star Power
is out now via Jagjaguwar
. Get it on iTunes, here