In a day and age where so much information is readily available about the artists we listen to, there are very few bands that can maintain the level of uncaring unpredictability that groups of pre-Internet yesteryear honed. Success and personal accessibility is the sign of the times and there’s no room in this cutthroat business for brash decisions and dangerousness.
Aside from Death Grips, Foxygen are the only band in recent memory that maintains the wistful insanity that their psychedelic and glam forebearers established their reputations on. Their unpredictableness has seen them wilding out at shows, accosting audience members, and nearly breaking up (at least according to singer Sam France’s girlfriend), but they’re still here, and still being very weird. Their new record, the double-LP …And Star Power is a cosmic hot mess that could only be made by a band with no qualms about commercial success. Beautiful moments of psych pop sit next to sporadic freakouts, and queasy rockers morph into soaring anthems at the drop of a hat.
The rambunctious spirit of the group is all well and good, but while the band is trying to give off the impression of a catch-all free-for-all like the White Album or Exile on Main Street, what comes off instead is more like an overly long Their Satanic Majesties Request, an album just as known for its shimmering moments, as its excessive, half-baked noodling. Which is a damn shame because songs like the lovely groover “How Can You Really” and dreamy ballad “Could Have Been My Love” are among some of the group’s best work. The zany “Star Power” suite that finishes side one isn’t bad either but it’s an early indicator of just how off the group is preparing to go in the record’s second half. Beautiful autumnal ballads like “I Don’t Have Anything/The Gate” and “Cannibal Holocaust” soon give way to the improvy fumbling of “Hot Summer” and “Cold Winter/Freedom.” There’s some buried nuggets in there like on the rocker “Brooklyn Police Station” and the Bradford Coxian “The Game,” but they don’t hold up to the pleasance of the album’s first few tacks, not to mention that the double whammy mess of “Freedom II” and “Talk” is enough to just completely erase and early fantasies you had of …And Star Power being some 21st century psyche masterpiece.
The alienating “Journey Through Hell” side though finds redemption into the concluding “Hang on To Love” side which features the epic and shapeshifting “Everyone Needs Love” which morphs from lounge crooner to gospel uplift to AM pop revue. If you can forgive them for the record’s preceding half hour, then you’re in for a real treat with the penultimate track.
The arrogance alone though is fascinating. …And Star Power is the type of record that wants to antagonize with its mixing of the elegant and the indulgent, and for that it succeeds. Where it starts to work against though are the times when you feel like some songs were basically just banged out as quickly as they were thought of. At times, Star Power really has just that, and at others, it feels like you’re listening to a drugged-out practice session as opposed to recording their self-proclaimed “cinematic auditory adventure.”