Something old yet very new
When you put the needle down on the new record, what? You don’t know what a needle is? Oh, well, anyways, when you hit the play button on whatever music playing device you have and you hear the first note and words on Foxygen’s “We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace And Magic,” you will imagine you did in fact put the cartridge down on a Beatles “Rubber Soul”-era record. And before too long, your mind will race to visions of the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane and even Elvis Presley as the band out of California will take you on a nostalgic treasure filled journey that is reflective and forward looking at the same time.
Foxygen has managed to create magic while conjuring up visions of a peace happy hippie’s psychedelic ride on a jet pack. Think Haight-Asbury in the Twitter age. At times on the threshold of avant-garde sound, the duo that makes up Foxygen — Jonathan Rado and Sam France — make it all accessible with sounds so reminiscent yet unique that you find yourself pondering the scope of what defines new music.
The album begins with “In The Darkness,” and its McCartney-esque vocals transform the fab four to the here and now. The second track is best described as their “Lou Dylan period.” It’s essentially Bob Dylan-inspired lyrics backed by old school guitar work and vocal stabs a la Lou Reed’s “Velvet Underground.” “On Blue Mountain” starts with some sparse drums and lazy Hammond keyboards before developing into a vintage John Lennon solo period vocals. Then a Lou Reed bass and some Motown background chorus grinds this piece into a “Suspicious Minds”-era Elvis Presley and you begin to appreciate the wonder and ease at which this band travels through time.
It’s on the fourth track, “San Francisco” that you practically smell the flowers in the hair and the burning incense framing lyrics that treat us to a retro joy ride of heavy 1960s sounds down to the trippy couplet “I left my love in San Francisco, That’s OK I was bored anyway.” Horns rumble into the most accessible of tunes in “Shuggie.” It’s spoken heartache that leaves one feeling like he was dissed by a girl in 1965 yet it happened yesterday. This album is like a viewing of the cable series “Mad Men.” It’s out of time, but of our time.
Though not as demandingly good as the rest of the album, the title cut does give us Uriah Heep-like crashing cymbals over the word jumble of a drunk Eric Burden running into the Ramones.
And the set’s closer, “Oh No 2” probably should have been left off the record as it veers from spacy noodling to totally losing its direction. It hardly dampens the ride. With music from then, visiting us now, Foxygen has brought us something old and yet something very new.
Tom Genes is a musicologist and can be heard on air Monday through Friday, 6-10 p.m. on KZYR. Genes hails from Flossmoor, Ill., and Vail.