Odds are, if you’re a member of Generation X, Y, or whatever and you have a good musical head on your shoulders, you grew up listening to your parents’ groovy, cut-off jeans rock and roll. Holy classics like Quadrophenia or Full Moon Fever unintentionally defined your childhood. Sometimes it feels like we’re part of a dying breed. But if you thought you were doomed to an eternity of sneaking obscure Kinks cuts into party playlists and debating the validity of the Stones with the same few old dudes at the local record store, I have good news. All hail, Foxygen, here to relieve you of your torch bearing duties and to give you something new to listen to. Primarily that.
Sam France and Jonathan Rado make up Foxygen, a duo that (if you pick up on a few hints from their lyrics and track list) you can guess come from California. In their second album, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, the duo give birth to a psychedelic fondue pot that melts together their childlike imaginations and rich history of rock & roll. As their label, Jagjaguwar, puts it, their music is “both reinvention and memorial.”
For example, on WAT21CAOPAM, the vocals channel the carelessness of Dylan’s spit on “No Destruction” and are reminiscent of the wavy precious smack of MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden on “In the Darkness.” They even the carry the sugary serenades of Motown girl groups with their wild falsettos on “Oh Yeah.” But Foxygen bypasses the trap that many new bands face. Instead of only imitating their idols, they inject their own viral strain into their work. Their version of Dylan isn’t quite so depressing as the real thing. Their MGMT isn’t too cynical and their Ronettes doesn’t aim to break your heart. There is a wild swagger underneath that’s purely original. It’s telling you to stop asking questions and put on a paisley shirt already.
WAT21CAOPAM is an onion that sheds its layers with each new listen. The single that has been floating around the web lately, “San Francisco” is a great hook, but tracks like “On Blue Mountain”, and “Shuggie” are heavier listens that slowly unravel. (The fifteen-second bass rev-up in the beginning of, “On Blue Mountain” is one of the best things I’ve heard so far this year.) Just when you think you’ve got some serious furrowed-eyebrow tuneage, you catch a couple of lines like “I met your daughter the other day. Well, that was weird,” or “You don’t have to be an asshole, you’re not in Brooklyn anymore” and you find yourself grinning like an idiot.
The worst thing about this album is that with only nine tracks, it runs barely thirty-six minutes long. But I guess we can be thankful they didn’t water down the album with filler material. Every one of these nine tracks is a gem, either instantly gratifying or something that takes a few listens to get yourself on the right level.