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Foxygen We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic Review

Album. Released 2013.  

BBC Review

Their influences are old, but the Californian duo’s enthusiasm shines through.

Mike Haydock 2013

Foxygen’s influences are rooted in the past. They love The Kinks, The Rolling Stones and The Velvet Underground, bands that were in their pomp before Foxygen’s members – Sam France and Jonathan Rado – were even born.

It’s difficult to understand this nostalgia for a past that was never real for Sam and Jonathan, yet we can’t condemn them for it. MGMT, Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Ariel Pink – they’re all at it too, digging into the past, finding the timeless tunes and sounds and reshaping them, updating them, blending them together to make something new.

This second album is a retro-styled psychedelic rock record that Foxygen set to tape with Shins musician and gifted producer Richard Swift, who the lads won over by thrusting a CD into his hands in a club. Swift is an ideal choice: he shares Foxygen’s love for the past and old-fashioned recording techniques, and he has tweaked the sound of their lo-fi debut, Take the Kids Off Broadway, to make it fuller and warmer.

Don’t worry, though. The clumsy, cheerful charm is still here in abundance. Songs like On Blue Mountain and Oh Yeah sound like they were rattled off with a grin and a giggle, the whirls of psychedelic organ breaking into head-bobbing rhythms as the bass and drums take charge. (On Blue Mountain also has the cheek to rip off Elvis’ Suspicious Minds.) 

Then there’s Shuggie and the album’s title track, both of which shift restlessly through a multitude of patterns and codas. The former is initially infused with Serge Gainsbourg-style laziness before turning into an upbeat indie-pop chant. The latter is a freeform, schizophrenic jam peppered with howling vocals. This is Foxygen making traditional rock music for a generation of kids with short attention spans.

The best cut here, though, is San Francisco: a dreamy, sunny lament with a lilting boy-girl, call-and-response chorus. It’s the album’s easiest moment, when Foxygen’s aesthetic is crystallised.

For many listeners, Foxygen’s influences will sound tired. But as they plunder the past, they’re enjoying themselves, and the enthusiasm on this messy collection of songs is infectious.

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