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Foxygen - The summer of love
on 24 January 2013
This is an album that can be located in Marmite territory. As you know if your a fan of the sticky, dark brown paste you will love it alternatively the "I hate Marmite" facebook page has nearly a quarter of million members and is growing. In terms of music reviews it has torn the jury asunder. Pitchfork has given it 8.4 out of 10 while the Quietus has given it zero. Foxygen comprise the young talents of Sam France and Johnathan Rado from Los Angeles. Look at a picture of this duo full of flower power affectations and sixties memorabilia and you wonder whether they don't decamp to San Francisco's Haight Asbury district and roll the clock back 50 years? With this observation in mind, is it a surprise that the album does include a very nice song dedicated to that city which sounds like a Donovan outtake? Plus genuinely try not to laugh at the line "I left my love in San Francisco/ (That's okay, I was born in L.A.)". As it stands "We are the 21st Ambassadors of Peace & Magic" is an album where it is not so much spot the influences as the nagging doubt that somewhere lawyers may be hovering waiting to serve writs for copyright infringement. Shades of the Beatles, Stones, Dylan and Kinks are all over this album like Eden Hazard on a Swansea ball-boy and what you must decide dear listener is whether this is purely derivative or infused with such a sense of playful pop fun that you cast aside all doubts and just enjoy. Let us take a case study the song "On Blue Mountain" . Within its structure you can detect clear references to" Suspicious minds" by Elvis and "Under my thumb" by the Stones along with some Arthur Brown and Doors. Does this make the song any less enjoyable? The answer is no, but if a band pinching riffs, melodies and much else in bold magpie style irritates you to the point of burning hatred please stay clear. If alternatively you want to explore further perhaps the recognition that your tongue should be firmly planted in your cheek is the starting point and clearly the band itself are not taking themselves that seriously.
Opener "In the darkness" is pure Ray Davies but is a great song. Equally "No Destruction" is treated by the band as if it should be on "Blonde on Blonde" and would have been a Dylan classic if he wrote it. But listen again on another occasion and it could be a rewrite of the Velvets "Rock n Roll"! For this reviewer the humour of the first part of the album carries it and repeat visits are in order. Sadly by the end of the album the charm disappears and the game of Karaoke guesswork becomes tiresome. Thus "Oh Yeah" borrows riffs from Prince and T Rex (so what?), while the title track is a sub Stones meets the Cramps effort which has been repeated more times than Dads Army on BBC 2. There is also a technical term for the Beatles like wailing of the final track "Oh no" and the phrase is "absolute b@ll@cks". On the plus side this band are having a great time yet "We are the 21st Ambassadors of Peace & Magic" can surely only be a one off? On balance "Foxygen" pull it off this time and there is enough here to suggest a level of invention that may eventually match more original bands like Tame Impala whose take on traditional rock followed by freak out psychedelia is far more innovative. In the final analysis there is enough humour and pastiche here to raise a warm smile. Lets see if its a stayer.