This may be the ultimate “What just happened?” album of 2014.
But what did you expect from the Los Angeles-based rock duo notorious for their manic performances and fierce inner band conflict? Foxygen was never going to make a clean, friendly record your Taylor Swift-loving mom would play on repeat. And, quite unsurprisingly, they didn’t.
More sonic collage than album, …And Star Power is a 24-track, eighty-minute juggernaut where noise pop, psych rock, a cowbell, and power chords banged out on a piano collide. It is bizarre, jarring, and exuberant. At the beginning of “Cold Winter/Freedom,” someone growls, “Hold onto your butts and get ready!” By the sound of the gritty reverb and crashing cymbals that fill the album, Foxygen means it. Fasten your seatbelt and don’t let the lovelorn lyrics fool you – it’s mayhem.
Still it would be a mistake to think that Sam France and Jonathan Rado aren’t self-aware or that their musical smorgasbord is sloppy. Nearly every song showcases a striking new aspect of their musicianship and songwriting prowess. Their songs run the genre gamut, ranging from dreamy shoegaze and lush synth pop to emotional ballads and cheeky punk rock. And with the occasional foray into 70s-inspired power pop, you can’t help but wonder if France and Rado’s mothers played Electric Light Orchestra and Stevie Nicks in the car when they were kids.
Consider yourself warned, however: the album is a blender, not a buffet. And while this is a bold strategy, it’s not foolproof. The majority of the album’s standout tracks are those that the band rides all the way to the end. “How Can You Really” and “Hot Summer” are allowed to blossom and the result is nothing short of spectacular. Foxygen sound best when they get out of their own way – if only they did it more often.
At its core, the album’s tremendous musicianship and calculated chaos provide a much-needed break from an increasingly streamlined and slicked-back rock music landscape. Think of …And Star Power as the impulsive, delinquent younger cousin of The Horrors’ Luminous. While Luminous drinks at trendy bars and updates their Twitter followers on all the up-and-coming bands, …And Star Power plays hooky, falls hopelessly in love with girls in leather jackets, and steals Twinkies from convenience stores.
And as the album proves, sometimes getting into trouble with a delinquent cousin can be a really fantastic time.