Simon Reynolds once declared that Pop Music was addicted to its own past, which holds a certain weight if we only consider the most popular musical publications of the last fifty years, Rolling Stone, NME, Mojo, Uncut and Q all rejoice on a weekly or monthly basis at reminding their readership that the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s happened, seemingly. Now “Retromania” is nothing to be feared, it’s just that when we have a legion of bands who want to sound like The Beatles, The Sex Pistols or more recently The Smiths, the creative well runs the risk of getting a little dry. Where are the bands who listen to The 13th Floor Elevators, The Band or Love, if an artist does commit to footnoting the best of music’s rich history then why not diversify a little? As such, Foxygen feel like a breathe of fresh air, as a band willing to widen their musical lense beyond what the musical media canon would have us all listen to.
Foxygen first turned heads last year with their debut release, Keep The Kids Off Broadway, which featured one of my favourite songs of the year, ‘Make It Known’, but perhaps lacked the cohesion to be a favourite album of mine. It was a promising start, their songs were intelligent, but pop-orientated, if a little shambolic at times. Vitally, they were artist you could get excited about, their music was energised and felt like it was worth investing your time into.
They play a form of Indie appropriated Psychedelic Pop, sort of in the vein of MGMT or Tame Impala. However, it will probably be Lonerism or MGMT’s forthcoming eponymous third album that will garner the most attention, which is unfortunate considering the distinct identity to ‘21st Century Ambassadors’. Despite the above comparisons, Foxygen take a somewhat more ramshackle approach to their music that is perhaps what was missing from Congratulations, a sense of excitement and joviality.
To the most part Foxygen’s music takes a lighthearted approach to 1960s Pop, emphasising their ear for a deftly infectious chorus. It’s songcraft at its most streamlined, appreciating that people love nostalgia as much as they love to sing-a-long. The lighter pop moments come in the form of singles ‘No Destruction’, which sounds like an old Dylan B-Side or a disused Velvet Underground slowjam and the eminently Mamas and Papas-esque ‘San Francisco’. Whereas the more direct, psychedelic-driven songs like ‘Oh Blue Mountain’ or the title song possess are more explorative element that recalls Creedence Clearwater Revival or The Sonics. At 36 minutes it flies by, as many of the best of the sixties did and makes for such casual listening that I’ll probably find myself listening to this album repeatedly throughout the year, simply because of its ease.
If the previous decade proved anything musically, it was that educating yourself can prove to be the key to success; the Stokes, LCD Soundsystem and Interpol are all testament to this. However, what separates those artists from the likes of MGMT is that their sources of influence were as varied as possible and channeled through a love for all of that music, rather than one specific genre or artist. Foxygen exhibit that same love for variety – admittedly within the parameters of the 1960s, but after the recent ongoing 1980s revival any change is welcomed. Nostalgia might not be what it used to be, but Foxygen are keeping the fantasy alive.
Ben is listening to Parquet Courts – ‘Light Up Gold’