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Foxygen: We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
The result, as documented on the group’s debut full-length album We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, is fun, uplifting and surprising, whilst retaining a very familiar – though not specific – sonic quality that is sympathetic on the ears.
Throughout the record, Foxygen very comfortably borrow and mix styles from classic FM radio staples like Bob Dylan, the Kinks, and David Bowie, all the way through to more modern groups like Belle & Sebastian, No Doubt, Mazzy Star, or even MGMT. The songs generally consist of traditional band instrumentation – guitar, drums, bass, keyboard – without indulging in too many effects, pedals and synthesizers, as is common in modern times.
The high quality recording employed by Foxygen on the album also allows listeners to hear the musical versatility of the group’s members. Whilst the album sounds like the work of a group of guys and gals jamming together, recording duties are shared solely by two Californian males, Sam France and Jonathon Rado. Knowing this, it becomes interesting and beautiful to listen to lead vocalist Sam France’s voice as it straddles the line between male and female, as is evident on certain tracks like lead single ‘Shuggie’.
Though Foxygen is thus far generally unknown, the two boys have been playing, recording, and performing together for over ten years since their early teens at school talent shows; the ‘old friend’ comfort and chemistry between the two being clearly evident on the album.
Nonetheless, despite said chemistry and accessibility of Foxygen’s sound, 21st Century is a difficult album to categorise, as switching between tracks easily sounds like flipping through different radio stations looking for the genre or era that suits one’s mood.
Tracks like ‘No Destruction’ sound so much like a Bob Dylan rip-off that it could almost put Stealers Wheel to shame. The genderless and playful ‘San Francisco’ sounds like a collaborative effort between groups like Love and Belle & Sebastian. Then, more experimental tracks like the aforementioned ‘Shuggie’ sound bizarrely like No Doubt trying to infuse a Broadway musical bridge into the middle of one of their songs.
But despite the mix and match nature of the album, all the sounds and genres heard on 21st Century would sound quite familiar and accessible to most music listeners as the album seems to stick to the history of FM rock radio charts over the past 60 years for direct musical inspiration. But, given a post-modern twist, the songs themselves are constructed interestingly enough to make the re-visitation of said genres fresh and cohesive with modern times.
In that vein, 21st Century hints at the beginning of a very promising career for Foxygen, and further releases will be eagerly anticipated.
Album opener ‘San Angeles’ will get feet moving and booties shaking, but the rest of the album is decidedly more post-rock oriented. The influences of Pink Floyd only really make a grand appearance on psychedelic tune ‘Lunar Drift’, with its spooky synths and echoing bass line.
‘The Eliminator’ takes the listener back to the eighties again, as the repetitive electronic beat that is used sounds a lot like the 8-bit sounds that were the backdrop for many early eighties video games. Imagine the aforementioned desert wasteland turning 8-bit coloured.
The eighties also dominate in the strummed intro to ‘Martin Rev’, evoking memories of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’. You’d almost think the guys of Maserati had wished they were making music a few decades ago.
Ever since the 2012 release of their double a-side single, ‘Flying To Berlin/Husbands’, Savages have occupied an interesting space in the musical spectrums. With a mixture of old school post-punk and noise rock, they appear to be the perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans. Their frenetic, dark, and sinisterly beautiful style has been receiving rave reviews the world over from critics and fans alike and their latest EP Adore Life is more of the same.
This is an album about love, but one would hesitate to call any of the tracks traditional love songs. Instead of falling into classic song writing tropes about how amazing love is, Savages instead approach the subject matter from a much darker perspective. This is an album about the true power of love, nd how that isn’t always a good thing.
The opening track, ‘The Answer’, heaves with energy from the get go, telling the story of an almost obsessive infatuation, with frontwoman Jehnny Beth (real name Camille Berthomier) repeating the words “If you don't love me/You don't love anybody” throughout the song just to drive home the fact that love can be a dangerous force. The hectic instrumentation provides a binary opposition to Beth’s sweet tones and is the perfect start to the record.
That is not to say that Adore Life is unrelenting in its aggression. This album is a mixture of forceful distortion, British post-punk and torch songs, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the song ‘Adore’. It’s slow, it’s bassy, it’s reverby (is that even a word?) it’s dark, but above all, beautiful. Concluding with a lyrical coda accompanied by a slow crescendo, it sounds like something you would hear in a smoky Paris café at 3AM. Make no mistakes, this is an early contender for one of the best songs of 2016.
Even towards the end of the album, they manage to keep the energy up. The penultimate track, ‘T.I.W.YG’, is almost a sequel to ‘The Answer’ in terms of style and narrative. The instrumentation provides an organised cacophony to truly drive home the fact that, this is what you get when you mess with love.
For what is only a second album, Adore Life shows a surprising maturity from the London-based female foursome. The lyrics are emotive without being contrived, the instrumentation is varied without being schizophrenic and the style is classic without being clichéd. This is more neo-post punk as opposed to post-punk revival and thank god it is, because the last thing we need is another attempt to revive a past genre. Remember the comment about the band being perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans? This album hits the nail on the head, being equal parts a love song to the past and an ode to the fuzzy future.