On the strength of singles San Francisco and No Destruction, and, to a lessor initial extent, Shuggie I purchased We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic by Foxygen direct from Jagjaguwar on vinyl it arrived with one of those stickers stuck to plastic sleeve that usually boasts the titles of radio hits for easily-led consumers or quotes from favourable reviews, or, sometimes out of context sub-quotes when a record company is really desperate. Here, though, their nerdy, actually goofy sense of humour (hey they named themselves Foxygen, albeit years ago when still at high-school) with their own made up quotes “Out best album yet” and “The only real ‘end of the world’ record out there”. And this just made me love them all the more, even before putting the record on the player.
To me, Foxygen manage to pilfer and pillage really good record collections to draw inspirations / steal good ideas from with equally measures of simultaneous reverence and irreverence; there’s a sense of wry humour without being laugh-out-loud-thigh-slapping-annoying. There’s a youthful coyness in the references – the confident playfulness is tempered with a sense that, maybe, they don’t actually know every-fucking-thing after all, to the extent that I do wonder to what extent produced Richard Swift (of The Shins) has informed the sonics of the album like a caring older brother sharing his record collection with his wide-eyed younger siblings. It’s this humility that, I think, strikes a winning chord throughout the record.
Kicking off with the cascading fanfares of In The Darkness which feels very much like a prelude of album intent before the glorious and aforementioned No Destruction which makes and art out of sounding bored and non-plussed; the last syllable of each line of the opening verse note-dropped almost as though Sam France’s attention span can’t even make it to the end of sentence. A honky-tonked piano; a wandering organ; a wee bit of Dylan-channelling and an oft-quoted couplet – “There’s no need to be an asshole, you’re not in Brooklyn anymore.” and a jamming’ outro make this seriously one of the best songs I’ve come across in a long time.
On Blue Mountain is so many songs squeezed into one without ever becoming distracting or non-cohesive; more tempo-shifts and key changes in five minutes than some acts manage through an entire album – yelps culminate into some sort of crazy cult-like hedonistic preaching replete with a chorus responding devotees.
One such devotee, perhaps, features again in San Francisco responding disarmingly to the appropriated “I left my heart in San Francisco” with an unaffected “That’s okay, I was bored anyway.” Brilliant. Side A closes with the jammed out instrumental psychedelia of Bowling Trophies.
On the flip – the record opens with Shuggie which contains the faux-sentiment “If you believe in yourself, you can free your soul” sung with mocking grandiose – key and tempo changes run amok and it’s great. Things get space-soul’d out on Oh Yeah; Lyn Collins’ Mr Big Stuff is heavily referenced but I can’t help think that so are about twenty other songs that I can’t quite put my finger on. Which is pretty much the general feeling everywhere on this record and the joy it presents, for me, is hearing or at least imagining hearing a new reference point at almost every turn. This morning I swear I heard Iggy Pops The Passenger momentarily in here; and then before you know it’s closing with Frank Sinatra.
Definitely a contender for one of my albums of the year.
RATING : FREAKIN’ AWESOME
I have always struggled with a numerical scale; it feels so finite and arbitrary.
So the CHEESE ON TOAST scale looks a little something like this :
FREAKIN’ AWESOME / JUST AWESOME / REALLY GREAT / GREAT / GOOD / PRETTY COOL / NOT BAD / COULD BE BETTER / PRETTY BAD, ACTUALLY / NOT RECOMMENDED FOR EARS