When you put the needle down on this new record, what? You don’t know what a needle is? Oh well anyways, when you hit the play button on whatever music playing device you have and you hear the first note and words on Foxygen’s “We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace And Magic” you will imagine you did in fact put the cartridge down on a Beatles Rubber Soul-era record. And before too long your mind will race to visions of the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane and even Elvis Presley as this relatively new band out of California will take you on a nostalgic treasure filled journey that is reflective and forward looking at the same time.
In what is amounting to one of the most interesting new music releases of the year, Foxygen has managed to create magic while conjuring up visions that suggest a peace happy hippie’s psychedelic ride on a jet pack. Think Haight-Asbury in the Tweeter age. At times veering on the threshold of avant-garde sound, the duo that makes up Foxygen- Jonathan Rado and Sam France- make it all accessible with sounds so reminiscent yet unique you’ll find yourself pondering the scope of what defines new music. The references, some obvious some coded, on the band’s third release come off as a homage and a homily.
The album begins with “In The Darkness” and it’s McCartney-esque vocals transform the fab four to the here and now. The second track is best described as their ‘Lou Dylan period.’ It’s essentially Bob Dylan inspired lyrics backed by old school guitar work and vocal stabs ala Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground. “On Blue Mountain” starts with some sparse drums and lazy Hammond keyboards before developing into a vintage John Lennon solo period vocals. Then a Lou Reed bass and some Motown background chorus grinds this piece into a “Suspicious Minds” era Elvis Presley and you begin to appreciate the wonder and ease at which this band travels through time.
It’s on the fourth track “San Francisco” that you practically smell the flowers in the hair and the burning incense framing lyrics that treat us to a retro joy ride of heavy 1960s sounds down to the trippy couplet “I left my love in San Francisco, That’s Ok I was bored anyway.” The Beach Boy’s car songs get a call out on the transcendent “Bowling Trophies.” As the tempo literally revs up, France and Rado give us 108 seconds of black light inspired ahs. Almost like listening to the Ventures in their garage.
Horns rumble into the most accessible of tunes in “Shuggie.” It’s spoken heartache that leaves one feeling like he was dissed by a girl in 1965 yet it happened yesterday. This album is like a viewing of the cable series Mad Men. It’s out of time, but of our time. The next song “Oh Yeah” treats us to more stinging guitars with a side order of funk. And though it suggest more World Party than the Stax Records hits it attempts to emulate, it still holds promise of things to be shared by this duo.
Though not as demandingly good as the rest of the album, the title cut does give us Uriah Heep-like crashing cymbals over the word jumble of a drunk Eric Burden running into the Ramones. And the set’s closer, “Oh No 2” probably should have been left off the record as it veers from spacy noodling to totally losing its direction. It hardly dampens the ride. With music from then, visiting us now, Foxygen has brought us something old and yet something very new.