ALBUM REVIEW: Foxygen “…And Star Power”

Foxygen

When I was in college, I spent a lot of time dating musicians, which meant I spent a lot of time sitting in on band practice. By “dating,” I guess I mean puttering around somebody’s basement, falling asleep on an old, bottomed-out couch, my French homework in my lap. Or being invited over to “hang out,” which meant lying around and listening to my amarato’s admittedly very good sound system crank out some rare Morphine b-side or watching him play “Wave of Mutilation” on acoustic guitar. But all that is beside the point. The point is, there’s something about Foxygen’s new album, …And Star Power, that reminds me very much of sitting in on band practice. The songs meander at length, and often talk more to themselves than to their listeners. They navel-gaze. To get to the nuggets of exhilaration and catchy magic buried in this thing, you have to sit through a lot of repetition, strumming, and self-amazement.

It’s easy to see why …And Star Power is so ambitious, and sometimes seems like it incorporates every musical thought the band has had over the past year. On their 2012 studio debut Take The Kids Off Broadway, the California-based outfit Foxygen–aka Jonathan Rado and Sam France, who between the pair of them make a sound so huge and anthemic it’s hard to believe they’re a duo–set a standard for overarching power rock full of catchy choruses and drunk-around-the-campfire feelgoodery. Then, the very next year, they put out the airtight and stellar We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. It was sweet and raucous, and in its way, it was a huge album, too–concise as a well-packed suitcase, 21st Century Ambassadors seemed as if it could expand into two or three records worth of triumphs and lessons.

Measure for measure, the number of well-constructed melodies in …And Star Power probably equals that of 21st Century Ambassadors; however, the former is a double album, clocking in at about an hour and twenty minutes. With extra time comes extra filler, presented as spaciousness and a vaguely futuristic ambiance punctuated by such spoken interjections as “society, maaaan” thrown seemingly at random into the background of the tracks. One might imagine that Foxygen decided to make a double album before writing the requisite songs to fill one, but I think it’s more likely that …And Star Power‘s long-windedness is a result of a challenge it makes to itself to be even more multi-faceted than 21st Century Ambassadors, and simply incorporate every kind of music in the history of rock and roll. Thus the swirl of lo-fi strummed folk, the sludgy doom metal, the channel-changing static, thus the campy ’70’s space noises, thus the schizophrenic production. Like porch furniture being sucked into a tornado, classic Americana, noise rock, California psych, and more than a few nameless hybrids go flying towards the gaping maw of Foxygen’s musical vision.  Voila: …And Star Power.

..And Star Power came out October 14th on Jagjaguwar. Pick up your copy here, and check out the psychedelic lullaby “Cosmic Vibrations,” from …And Star Power, below:

 

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