15 Nov 2014

Album Review: Foxygen "...And Star Power"

Reviewed By Tom Sandford

There has always been a certain mystique surrounding the double album. "Blonde On Blonde"; "The White Album"; "Quadrophenia"; "Here, My Dear"; "Songs in the Key of Life"; "Physical Graffiti"; "Exile On Main Street"; "Zen Arcade" – these are respected pillars of 20th Century popular music; towering achievements, triumphant Grand Artistic Statements, lauded for visionary panache and creative brilliance. To become lost in the four sides of a cursorily impenetrable double album was – and still is, for that matter – an intensely personal experience…shared by all (one of the great paradoxes in rock music). These beloved, epic albums constitute musical epochs in rock mythology, and righteous rites of passage in one’s personal history.

And so we are presented with Foxygen’s latest "…And Star Power", an obvious homage to these ageless epics. The real question here, however, is whether it’s a grand tip of the hat to them, or just one big fuck-you. Ultimately, "…And Star Power" might be better characterized as an anti-epic: while maintaining a façade of grandiosity and ambition consistent with the aforementioned Grand Artistic Statements, those elements are deliberately undermined, or openly mocked.

A quick scan of the song titles reveals at least the possibility of grand ambition, thematic cohesion and requisite pomposity: "Star Power Airlines", "Star Power I: Overture"; "Star Power II: Star Power Nite"; "Star Power III: What Are We Good For" and "Star Power IV: Ooh Ooh". Sounds impressive, huh? In reality, however, "Star Power Airlines" is a throwaway three-chord wank – the kind of mindless, goes- nowhere power-chording riffage your first band would play at jams when everybody was hammered enough to think they were The Who. It’s hilarious enough, I guess. Once or twice. The four-part "Star Power" is really just a disjointed mess. There’s no discernible thread to the songs, and the band couldn’t be bothered to even come up with the kind of smoothly edited transitions and crafty sequencing that made the trip through "The White Album" so compelling. No, here it’s all just a big smashup at the corner of Irony Street and Whateverism Avenue.

Elsewhere, Foxygen’s truly puzzling habit of nicking riffs and melodies of familiar songs (something that also marred their previous album, "We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic", to a degree) is on full display here. I suppose someone thought it the epitome of cleverness to rip off the melody from Little River Band’s "Lonesome Loser" ("How Can You Really") but I simply don’t get the gag. Other pillaged acts include Skip Spence, The Beatles, Bob Dylan – you get the idea. Worse yet is the truly lackadaisical nature of the playing. An ostensibly nice bit of Rundgren-inspired pop writing, "How Can You Really" is completely undermined by in-your-face sloppiness. Look, I get the lo-fi ethic. I do not get desultory execution that reeks of self-sabotage.

Oh, and about the presentation of this as a double album? A completely gratuitous gesture, I’m sorry to say. Clocking in a just over 81 minutes, the entirety of this album could have easily fit onto one CD if they had cut even a few seconds from a pointless noise like "Freedom II". But nope, they just had to push it past 80 minutes to make it a double CD. All in all it’s just another brick in Foxygen’s phony wall.

Available on CD and vinyl.

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