Review Summary: The kids have returned to Broadway.
Foxygen have never really followed up on their promises. Frustratingly eclectic and indecisive in which direction they wish to go, the pair that makes up Foxygen, Sam France and Jonathan Rado, are always seemingly at odds as to what they want Foxygen to be in exact. Their past three efforts, most notably the bloated and unashamedly Rundgrenesque …And Star Power
, have all followed a specific formula in which they take their influences and use them so excessively to a point where it’s near-plagiarism. Don’t get me wrong, Foxygen has created some intriguing music, but there’s always been a vague idea that their stuff is most likely lifting from Todd Rundgren, Marc Bolan and so on. On Hang
, this trend necessarily doesn’t meet an end, but it’s less obvious they’re probably ripping off some other song (the ”Baby Love”
-like chorus of ”Avalon”
being an exception) and instead using them in a way that adds to the music presented. The concept of Hang
is quite simple when compared to the gargantuan Star Power
in that it goes for a singular idea rather than aiming for making the next Something/Anything?
– America. There’s few mentions of the land itself aside from the song named after it (and the various cynical lines spouted out throughout the track as well), but moreso the musical culture of an America distant from the one of today.
Opener ”Follow The Leader”
is immediate, unabashedly revealing what Foxygen is up to. There’s no trace of the band who previously did relatively lightweight indie rock, but a band seeking more ambitious realms, complete with a hilariously grating Jagger/Curry impression being the constant companion to these overwhelmingly American songs. The vaudevillian glam of ”Avalon”
expands further upon the band’s ambition with a heavily orchestrated composition accompanying France and Rado, revealing another side to Foxygen that really brings out the power in their works that has rarely been seen in their more sparsely produced material. On each and every song, there’s always a constant that drives the work onward, whether it be the T.Rex-inspired ”Mrs. Adams”
or the Harry Nilsson-ish ”America”
, in which both flirt with striving for a unique sound outside of the band’s sphere of influence, but are restricted by their lack of personality. However, this notable absence of persona is compensated greatly by the mere fact that the songs are highly enjoyable. There’s not a dull moment to be had on the thirty or so minutes of Hang
, which is perhaps its most defining attribute.
The exact complication of its predecessor, Hang
does get extremely too excessive for its own good in the limpid showtunes cop-out ”Upon a Hill”
, where France gets far too invested in his Mick Jagger posturing and just has
to sing about wild flamingos dancing on spaceships – it ultimately goes nowhere and begs the question of its inclusion; and it’s perfectly paired with the equally pointless Eagles-sounding ”On Lankershim”
that struggles to break free from its country leanings and ends up returning to the same sound as almost every single song that makes up Hang
. Consistency plays a part in the quality of Foxygen’s works and Hang
ends up being one of the more stable things they’ve put out in recent years thanks in no part to its first half and the dramatic pomp of closer ”Rise Up”
, a song that spurts out cliché after cliché to inspire you to “pull yourself up from the fires of hell”, “to believe in yourself” and most definitely remember that what you were looking for all along was certainly with you this entire time. Subtle, it is not.
Foxygen, for the most part, have never followed up on their promises. In describing their latest work, they described it as “going to Disneyland”, due to its baroque pop leanings that evoke thoughts of Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson. For all its shortcomings, spontaneous excitement and entertaining homages to the musical landscape of an olden America long gone, Hang
is more like going to Broadway rather than Disneyland. You think you’re going to get flamingos dancing on spaceships and eclectic third-rate Rocky Horror-esque glam sessions at Disneyland? Get real.