Record review: Foxygen – …And Star Power (2014, LP)

foxygen ...and star power

Before having even heard of note of Foxygen’s third album you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d lost the plot. Twenty-four songs spread over a double LP seems like the sort of rock music folly that ’70s punk killed off for good, but the Californian duo of Jonathan Rado and Sam France are seemingly undeterred. They even go as far as labelling their opening track ‘Star Power Airlines’ in a nod to a time when rock stars flew in planes with their band logo painted on the fuselage.

Thankfully, the expected musical flatulence doesn’t appear, although it’s barely kept at bay in parts. Second track and lead single ‘How Can You Really’ goes a long way towards bursting that particular bubble; it’s Big Star-esque aesthetic soothes and radiates warmth, before the piano balladry of ‘Coulda Been My Love’ shows that the duo have lost none of their song-writing talents during the crazy times they’ve experienced since the release of 2012’s We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic. Indeed, it could be suggested that the alleged infighting, shambolic live performances and so-called exhaustion have made …And Star Power what it is. Much like their heroes The Rolling Stones’ 1978 classic ‘Beast of Burden’, Foxygen have their own bruised-and-battered anthem with ‘You And I’, on which France is found asking “Why doesn’t anybody help me? Why doesn’t anybody care?” amid tales of broken bodies and divided relationships.

The next four tracks, labelled the ‘Star Power Suite’ are a fairly ridiculous few minutes that start off sounding like a medley of ’70s theme tunes in the vein of The Fall Guy or Smokey and the Bandit, before ‘Mattress Warehouse’ picks things up again; its organ-driven base allowing France to mumble and stumble through his vocals in the elegantly wasted manner he has made his own. The driving whimsy of ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ provides an album highlight shortly after, ‘Cold Winter Freedom’ throws some heavily-distorted synths into the mix to make it the heaviest track here, and ‘Freedom II’ is about as Rolling Stones as any band is going to get without snorting their dead father’s ashes.

By the last quarter, the gloves are well and truly off and nothing is left in the tank. The flailing fury of ‘Talk’ gives way to the cheese-balladry of ‘Everyone Needs Love’ and its calls to “shine on”, before closer ‘Hang’ closes proceedings on a miserable and dragging note.

At 82 minutes, boundaries of length and self-indulgence aren’t quite reached and beached, but there’s a lingering feeling that at least four or five of these tracks could have been left out or set aside for the special edition and no loss of quality would have resulted. At times out of focus, at times incoherent, but always engaging …And Star Power is more like three or four albums disguised as one. However, for all their retro leanings and sometimes misguided ideas, Rado and France remain top-drawer songwriters, and it’s that fact that make this album worth a spin or two.

For FasterLouder

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