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Thursday, January 24, 2013

REVIEW: Foxygen - We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic



Foxygen
We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
Record Label - Jagjaguwar
Release Date - January 22, 2013


The rhetoric surrounding Los Angeles duo Foxygen is well told by this point. Unafraid to wear their influences down their cream and paisley covered sleeve, proclaiming to be the “Wes Andersonization of The Rolling Stones” on their label page, Sam France and Jonathan Rado better eternalize the music of decades gone by than nearly any other group currently trying to rekindle that flame.

Sonically, the retro chic crutch which Foxygen have built their momentum upon holds up incredibly well. We Are The 21st Century... borrows heavily from the early psychedelic and rock records of the 60s and 70s, but remove this somehow mandatory prefix and the album stands amongst a sparse crowd in terms of its uniqueness in the modern era. At times it sounds like the illegitimate child of Tame Impala and Real Estate, a reverence for the classics mixed with the informal attitude of simple, honest guitar-driven pop music.

The organ sounds of “On Blue Mountain” and France’s various nods to The Bible give the track a sort of gospel feel, preaching their brand of nostalgic enlightenment to all that will listen. It quickly blooms into a mix of jovial piano keys and fast-paced drum beats, the kind of easygoing tune that just begs to be celebrated. “Shuggie” trades the organ noise for some early electronic-infused keyboards, immediately giving the track a “far out” nature. The flute spells and vocal harmonies of the chorus combine for an altogether catchy number that certainly toes the line between cheesy and sincere. The titular track sounds entirely more current, however, and displays the duo’s range in sound and energy. “We Are The 21st Century’s Ambassadors of Peace and Magic” has more in common with Thee Oh Sees and Burger Records than it does with the Velvet Underground and Mick Jagger, burning through four and a half minutes of feverish guitar work teamed with France’s vocal yips. In terms of its instrumentation and arrangement, or more simply put just the way the record sounds, We Are The 21st Century succeeds because it doesn’t try and do anything it isn't good at. Each track implements just a few different elements and controls their scope in a manner that’s incredibly enjoyable and easily digestible after dozens of spins. Not every record needs to challenge the listener, and Foxygen’s euphoric, optimistic pop rock is reason enough to believe in that sentiment. But unfortunately, that’s only half the picture. 



Ultimately, the problem with this record lies in the fact that it bares both its innocence and its desperate need to seem relevant all too candidly. While irony and sheepish nostalgia currently rule the roost, when these tropes are delivered in such a heavy handed fashion, as they so often are on We Are The 21st Century, there’s an immediate backlash against its oft-pandering nature. Jokes about how everybody from Brooklyn is an asshole? Surely there’s a more clever way to appeal to the west coast neo-flower-power-child that apparently needs reassurance that their move to the Mission was “totally worth it.” So while I find myself particularly floored with the duo’s ability to recreate the sun drenched, innocent pop music of the 60s (or whatever decade, really), there’s something altogether disturbing about the group’s assumptive subject matter.

Whether it's the vestiges of San Francisco’s Instragrammed past, the reluctance to grow up and out of swingsets and sunrises and maybe, just maybe do something with their life other than smoke pot in the subway (see: “No Destruction”), this young duo seem so desperate to contrive a past they never had. I don’t know who Foxygen are writing their songs for, and the more time I spent with We Are the 21st Century the more and more alienated I began to feel. If the answer is ultimately for themselves, then I feel sorry for their inability to move past the childish escapism that so blatantly influences the vision they have of themselves. I’m fine with a group’s image being rooted in black and white photos or other wistful stories of a bygone age, but the whole of We Are The 21st Century’s message is absolutely basic if not insulting. It’s a record suffering from a lack of earnestness, preaching a laughable subject matter set to some incredible music.

6 comments:

gsaul says:
at: January 24, 2013 at 3:38 PM said...

God, this is such a pretentious review.

will smith says:
at: January 24, 2013 at 9:56 PM said...

An impressive post, I just gave this to a colleague who is doing a little analysis on Brand Ambassadors and he is very happy and thanking me for finding it. But all thanks to you for writing in such simple words. Big thumb up for this blog post!

Vivian Bacus says:
at: January 28, 2013 at 1:08 AM said...

Listening music through my iPhone with the latest "ClipClock" application for great moments and the latest music video releases! Download here directly from the app store! www.clipclock.com/download/30048

CruellaW says:
at: January 31, 2013 at 6:43 PM said...

I just enjoyed the fun of the music. I like their sound and what they are creating. As a child of the 60's, I enjoyed their dabbling in the old, mixing with their new.
Don't be taking yourself too seriously!

Anonymous
at: February 25, 2013 at 9:25 PM said...

this album has grown on me.

johnsmith123 says:
at: March 7, 2013 at 3:14 AM said...

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