Review Summary: This is their “pop album”, but it’s a damn fine one at that.Draw Down the Moon
suffers the great injustice of having to follow Foxing’s magnum opus, Nearer My God
. Now it gets to absorb the brunt of all criticisms – some perfectly valid, others less so – as it’s constantly measured against an album that is for all intents and purposes untouchable. The truth is that once you move past attempts to compare apples and oranges, Draw Down the Moon
ends up holding its own quite beautifully. It is Foxing’s simplest offering to date, but it’s also the catchiest and most purely enjoyable thing they’ve ever put their name to. If you enjoy shouting along to anthemic pop-rock bangers, then you’ve arrived at the holy grail.
It’s easy for Draw Down the Moon
’s transition to feel jarring to some. The band have trekked pretty far from their emo/post-rock roots, and ‘Speak With the Dead’ served as a highly misleading red herring of a lead single with multiple suites/movements over a winding, unpredictable seven minutes. Even those who’ve digested all five (!) of their singles prior to the album’s release date might have experienced a sudden jolt of excitement when ‘737’ came bursting down the door with its intoxicating pastoral acoustics and that balls-to-the-wall crescendo of screams and electric shredding. But at its heart, Draw Down the Moon
isn’t anything rollicking or wildly experimental – it’s just a superbly executed batch of emotionally tense, highly melodic, and stylistically eclectic mainstream tunes. You’ll be disappointed if you come here with all your hopes set on another ‘Five Cups’, but it’s okay – you’ll get over it.
There’s reason for such blunt optimism, and that’s because despite failing to match Nearer My God
’s creativity stride-for-stride, the record still exudes endless passion and energy thanks to Conor Murphy’s uniquely earnest vocal delivery and the band’s unquenchable sense of urgency. Draw Down the Moon
might be Foxing’s most refined offering yet, but you can still palpably feel
everything that went into this record. Even on the album’s poppiest outing, ‘Go Down Together’, there’s an undeniable sting when Murphy wails, “your friends talk shit while you're going through hell” atop a groovy dancefloor beat, or when he sings “ever since I got going I've been going for broke” narrating the tale of Bonnie and Clyde while also perfectly describing post-2015 Foxing. The synth-pop vibes turn darker on ‘Bialystok’, as the pain knifes its way even deeper with the melancholic chorus “I feel so homesick everywhere I go” and roundaboutly romantic, self-deprecating verses like “I was just thinking about arguing in the kitchеn / Just to be the one that you argue with, is a miracle in itself.” Basically, it’s the same band of sad boys that we’ve come to know and love, only a sleeker and more efficiently packaged incarnation.
Foxing are at their best when they fuse this album’s mainstream mentality with the grittier emo-rock of their past, however. ‘737’ is the strongest track on Draw Down the Moon
– and one of the greatest Foxing songs in general – precisely because it achieves that striking balance. The song trickles in like an idyllic For Emma, Forever Ago
moment, but then erupts into the most punishing bridge of the band’s entire career. Similarly, ‘If I Believed in Love’ floats in on a cloud of elegant croons and electronically-altered vocal cuts before catapulting into the stratosphere with a series of all-screamed verses which consume the remainder of the track’s runtime. Songs like these aren’t as elaborate as what one might expect on the heels of this record’s predecessor, but they’re exhilarating and wholly satisfying in a way that we haven’t heard since Brand New threw everything at the wall on 2009’s Daisy
. The simplicity and repetition can be initially off-putting, but these intense and moody songs will haunt your mind for days – not to mention absolutely kill
in a live setting. If Foxing ever chases this aesthetic for the length of an entire album, it could be their ticket to finally, someday, escaping Nearer My God
’s long shadow.
Elsewhere, the stylistic fusions are far more subtle and dynamic. On ‘Where the Lightning Strikes Twice’, a huge chorus is in constant contention with illuminated electric riffs to see which can act as the song’s most recognizable hook, and they both win. The title track seemingly displays all of Foxing’s modes in one showing, from insanely infectious vocal melodies to slightly gnarled and discordant guitars, finally reining it all in towards the end for one of the most satisfyingly anthemic choruses in the history of emo-rock. Never do these moments feel like they belong anywhere other than with each other; a testament both to Foxing as well as the deft production (where credit goes to guitarist Eric Hudson, along with John Congleton and Andy Hull). ‘Beacons’ and ‘Cold Blooded’ operate in similar capacities, their fuzzed-out melodies sticking to any ears in their path while Conor Murphy dials in with some of his most heartbreakingly introspective observations to date: “I was floating there for so long / King of nothing, but the space I take up / I felt it all at once”…“ I wish that a day without rain would make me feel the same today, but I'm desensitized.” The odd song out on this whole record is ‘At Least We Found the Floor’, an acoustic ballad with minimal tonal or lyrical variation. Even as you expect the track to stumble due to its own simplicity, there’s still a weight to the “oh fuck” that starts things off, not to mention the sinking feeling that comes when Conor sings “It's gonna get much worse than this / Yeah it's gonna get much worse than this” after spending three minutes exploring the upside of hitting rock bottom. C’mon Conor, it’s 2021, we feel bad enough. More than anything, though, it’s merely a transitional piece bridging Draw Down the Moon
’s pop-oriented first half with its louder and more daring second half.
Draw Down the Moon
is an album that will draw the ire of many fans because of what it isn’t, but I’d like to once again summarize what it is
. It’s nearly all
hook. It’s an emotionally dialed-in, instrumentally ramped-up, and vocally memorable collection of mismatched ideas that somehow function together smoothly. Even amid the record’s eclecticism, it’s still a definitive Foxing experience. Make no mistake: this is
their “pop album”, but it’s a damn fine one at that. For those who can’t appreciate that, well, sing it with me: tell them all to go home…