Foxygen ‘We are the 21st century ambassadors of peace and magic’ – Review

23 Feb

There’s a bit of a 60’s psychedelic revival going on at the moment, led by the terrific Tame Impala and groups such as Toy, Melody’s Echo Chamber, Pond and Temples. Of all the bands lumped into this emerging genre, Foxygen have received more flack than most, seemingly because they wear their influences more proudly on their sleeve than some of those other bands. It could be because Foxygen started out as a covers band. They rolled through the big hitters – one day they’d pretend to be The Beatles, the next day it could be The Stones. They admit to starting out as little more than impersonators and to their detractors that is what they remain to this day. Impersonators.

Now, I love ‘We are the 21st century ambassadors of peace and magic’ (and breathe!), but I can see where their critics are coming from. The album opener sounds like an outake from ‘Sergent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’, with a strikingly similar horn fanfare and jubilantly multi-tracked harmonies. On ‘San Fransisco’ they take on The Kinks at their village Green best (the title is a sly nod to that album as well), right down to the music video which finds them dressed in pin striped trousers and velvet jackets. On ‘No Direction’ they channel Bob Dylan’s electrified 1966 ghost whilst on the title track they answer the question ‘what would 13th Floor Elevators sound like if they were fronted by Elvis?’ The answer? Pretty damn good.

So yes, Foxygen will remind you of a few bands. But (as you may have noticed) the bands they reference are all classic groups, so if  Foxygen sound a bit like them, well, who really cares. If you’re going to copy anyone it may as well be the best. The melodies here are all excellent, the arrangements are smart and the songs are dripping with passion. It’s just a brilliantly executed pop record.

It’s witty as well – and funny. On ‘Shuggie’ the singer exclaims ‘I met your daughter the other day, that was weird / She had rhinoceros shaped earrings in her ears’. Elsewhere he is poignant (‘I hate to say I miss you cause you don’t need me anymore’) and biting (‘there’s no need to be an asshole, you’re not in Brooklyn anymore)’. What they lack in originality they make up for with personality, and that shines through on every one of these nine songs.

Ok, this isn’t a classic album in the same vein as the ones I just mentioned. Those records were all inovative – this is clearly not. And while Foxygen may share the humour, and nostalgic musicality, of Tame Impala, they lack the pulsating emotional heart (though one does beat gently). However ‘We are the…’ is a fun little album that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and doesn’t ask you to take it too seriously either. As their 60’s idols once said (probably) ‘open your minds Man and enjoy’. Or something.

8/10

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