Review Summary: You can have me, but I’m all used up.
It must be a terrible burden, being the self-appointed torchbearers of musical generations long passed. Foxygen’s Sam France and Jonathan Rado have a history of chaos and conflict, manifested in onstage rants, cancelled tours, infighting, and the occasional broken limb. Surely the stress of their unenviable position is to blame, with ...And Star Power
being but an outlet. At eighty-two minutes, the album sprawls, a self-indulgent experiment in excess that pays tribute not only to the sixties and seventies, but to their own playful image. It falls between refined retro-rock and visceral noise, ignoring the discipline of their two prior releases. The result is scattered, inconsequential, and yet, despite its pretensions, far too much fun to dislike.
After all, if you lack the musical ideas to sustain twenty-four tracks across four distinct sides, you may as well commit to charm and enthusiasm. The opening polish of ‘How Can You Really’ is an anomaly in an album otherwise drenched in tape hiss and irreverent lyricism. ‘Cosmic Vibrations’ channels a lo-fi Skip Spence, restlessly moving from its placid, drawled verses to its bright, uplifting finish. The musical quadtych of ‘Star Power I-IV’ jumps from hook to hook, throwing in hints of Reed, Rundgren, and Jagger without stopping to check if the inspirations stick. The tongue-in-cheek humour and self-awareness pays off, and everything feels so personal and innocent: ‘Cold Winter / Freedom’ opens with a recording of a younger France hosting his imaginary radio station. ‘This is the third tape’, he proclaims. ‘Hold on to your butts and get ready.’
Perhaps it’s fitting. The third side - ‘Scream: Journey Through Hell’ - is the most abrasive, and notably the weakest. It’s a pretentious mess of disjointed protopunk, dragging through misplaced hollering and anarchic structures. ‘Can’t Contextualize My Mind’ shoots for psychedelic but collapses into distorted lo-fi screeching. ‘The Game’ attempts to praise Barrett, but ends up a bitter parody. The only gem in the this scatter is ‘Brooklyn Police Station’, a love letter to seventies pop-rock whose chorus is a triumphant pastiche of the era. It’s this stretch of the LP where Richard Swift’s absence is most keenly felt; without his production experience and compositional criticism, there’s nothing to steer France and Rado from their more erratic experiments. The outcome is a bloated mess, too overblown to enjoy.
Their ambition is admirable. ...And Star Power
is nothing if not audacious, reeling from one idea to the next, with little heed given to the result. It’s a zealous reflection of Foxygen’s personality, diving after their desires with only a cursory offer given to the listener to follow. Their style hasn’t changed: France’s smooth vocals, effortlessly imitative, dance between emotive and restrained. The instrumentation captures both their joyous bombast and their quieter balladry. All the pieces are in place, but here, they’re tossed about haphazardly, existing only to serve the album’s conceptualising. It may not be as rewarding as Take The Kids Off Broadway
, but ...And Star Power
reproduces the reckless fun of their past, and we’re welcome to it.