Foxygen ‘Hang’ – Review

15 Feb

Foxygen’s debut album may have been called ‘Take the Kids off Broadway’, but it’s only now, four albums in, that the band have truly indulged their theatrical inclinations. ‘Hang’ is a sprightly eight song, thematically linked, collection that incorporates honkey tonk piano, an opulent 40 piece orchestra, tap dancing, rag time jives and sleigh bells. You suspect that Foxygen had something like ‘The Soft Bulliten’ in mind when they conceived the project but the truth is it’s far too slight and lightweight to live up to that challenge. It wears it’s 1970s influences so obviously on its sleeve that it has no chance of transcending pastiche – albeit an entertaining one.

Of course Foxygen have always skirted close to this edge. ‘We Are The 21st Century Ambasaders of Peace and Magic’ mined Dylan and Beatles records pretty mercilessly, but did so with wit, humour and hooks galore. This time around the band seem more interested in Todd Rundgren and ‘Hunkey Dory’ era Bowie, not to mention obscure Broadway soundtracks. It’s this latter influence that will dictate your response to this album; I can see it being loved and loathed in equal measure. There is an uncanny quality to Foxygen’s music that is occasionally creepy. Perhaps it’s just personal taste but the vaudeville sound and vocals on ‘Avalon’ are actually quite repellent – so accurately mimicking the sound of early Broadway whilst never attempting to match the key ingredient – sincerity. This is something of a fatal flaw.

He may not wear his heart on his sleeve but lead singer Jonathan Rado Is a great producer (as he demonstrated with his work on last year’s excellent sounding ‘Light Upon The Lake’ by Whitney). ‘Hang’ sounds flawless. You have to conclude that it probably sounds exactly how the band intended – and you can’t really fault them for that. The grandiose string arrangements don’t sound this overblown and ridiculous by accident. At only eight songs long it never really has the opportunity to outstay its welcome and it’s enjoyable more often than not. There are even moment where Foxygen excel in their new setting and remind you of how great they were on tracks like ‘No Destruction’ and ‘San Fransisco’. They never really unlocked that potential but on ‘Follow the Leader’ and ‘America’, if not elsewhere, they make you think that they still might, some day.

6.5/10

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