Review Summary: Just because it's free doesn't mean you're not allowed to complain
On the title track of Foxy Shazam's fifth LP, lead singer Eric Nally bemoans that 'Hero's are something only Dave Grohl sings about', expressing a brilliant sense of cynicism we have come to expect from these gaudy glam punks. The problem? Everything it's wrapped in isn't particularly good. The mixing job sounds flat, the guitars seem tapered where they should be recklessly jabbing and, especially for a record produced by Steve Albini, being propelled by a surprisingly placid rhythm section. The drums don't echo and smack with fury, the bass doesn't grind along and you'll be damned if it doesn't take you more than half-a-dozen listens to pick up the groove hidden inside. Commendably released though it may be, Gonzo
is hardly anything special.
It's sad too; 2012's The Church of Rock & Roll
was such an exciting and camp take on glam punk that, under the control of equally OTT Justin Hawkins, dripped with sexual fury and political humour. Now the band appear to have groomed themselves and ditched the overly glam image they originally pertained to- in the process, they forget that's their identity. On "Poem Pathetic" and "Brutal Truth", the band make it severely unclear as to what is they're trying to achieve. While one side sees a camp horn section start up and Nally exercise his lungs in the art of stupidity, the other sees a band trying too hard to control their over anxious state and instead crunch along with excessive accenting. It's uncomfortable (almost unbearable) to listen to.
Overall though, what's most depressing about this is the production job- for the most part, it both disappoints and detracts from the experience. Some tracks such as "Tragic Thrill", "Have the Fun" and "Don't Give In" suggest brilliance but rarely touch it. The matter of the fact is Steve Albini's mixing job is so unbelievably rudimentary that it makes the album appear to be undercooked demoes. It's difficult to make out that
iconic Albini sound within, but he's hardly to blame. With a band known for their OTT sense of fiasco, attempting to be a dressed down indie glam act is nothing but a bad move. Motifs are questionable and the proof is in the pudding, this carries absolutely none
of the excitement of their previous records.
It leads to a barrage of questions; Where's the iconic sense of European comedy? Where's Steve Albini's punishing mixing job? Where is all the raw excitement that comes from the medium and released method? Unfortunately (disappointingly, moreover), it's nowhere to be found.