Foxygen

foxygen2

Foxygen is the Los Angeles-bred songwriting duo of Sam France (vocals, Olympia, Wash., 22 years old) and Jonathan Rado (guitar/keyboards, NYC, 22). They are the raw, de-Wes Andersonization of The Rolling Stones, Kinks, Velvets, Bowie, etc. that a whole mess of young people desperately need. They create a sometimes-impressionistic, sometimes-hyper-real portrait of sounds from specific places and times. Yet, it never comes across as anything but absolutely modern music. They bring the manic, freewheeling qualities of an artist like Ariel Pink to those aforementioned influences to make for one of the most refreshing listens of the year. They are the real deal and total savants. Their albums are love letters to vinyl collections. The first track, “Abandon my Toys,” only gives you two seconds of electronic soundery before acoustic instruments take over along with a vocal that sounds channeled in by a medium. “Why Did I Get Married?” plays like a mournful lounge act until about the two minute mark, when it starts to crash into something else, and a gooey kind of Ray Davies vocal gives way to shouts and barks. After you listen to even a few songs on the album, any attempt to define its genre will start with a discussion and end with a shrug, maybe a “rock and roll?” or a “psychedelic?” And that’s how shit needs to be said. More question marks. Less periods. Less declarations. Cause it’s only questions that can take us where we need to be, to a place of profound and active ignorance. As a tiny organism adrift on a sea of infinite nuance, ignorance is the only honest state of being. And Take the Kids off Broadway is an album full of question marks.

In May 2011, France and Rado nervously handed off a CD-R of this homemade mini-opus Take the Kids Off Broadway to producer and visionary Richard Swift after his performance in a Lower East Side club. The duo, who had just mixed and burned the disc that very night, had been devotees of Swift’s outsider-pop oeuvre since high school, when they first began recording their own pubescent forays into oddball rock n’ roll (At least a dozen records were finished before they graduated high school). Foxygen left the venue that night unsure whether Swift would truly listen or sling the disc into a dumpster on his way out. You’re reading this right now because he did listen. In fact, Swift fucking flipped for Foxygen’s bugged out, esoteric majesty and called upon them immediately to say as much. Eight months later, Foxygen was holed up for a week-long recording session at Swift’s neo-legendary National Freedom studio, creating what has become We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, a precocious and cocksure joyride across California psychedelia with a burning, bursting punk rock engine. The songs were written in an inspired fury just after Take the Kids… was complete, pouring from their hands and mouths. Foxygen believes each song was a message of peace delivered from cosmic beings who used France and Rado as their messenger vessels. Some listeners may approximate with that old trope: “It’s like listening to The Kinks on acid.” But that doesn’t exactly do it. The deeper truth might be that this is what The Kinks would be like if they themselves –the brothers Davies–dropped some blotter and struggled through a trip to lay down the follow-up to Arthur. Bubbling beneath their supreme melodic instincts, there’s a wild, nervy energy and a raw musicianship that makes Foxygen incapable of doing anything exactly straight. And we wouldn’t want it any other way. They somehow pack a host of musical left turns, lyrical non sequiturs and decades-spanning bridges into industry-prefered 3-4 minute gems that are at both reinvention and memorial. Don’t call them the new young dudes on the scene. They’re only new to you. They’ve been at this rock god thing since junior high.In the same year as Scott McKenzie the singer of “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)” leaves this mortal coil, Foxygen delivers unto us the dandy Glockenspiel-packing “San Francisco,” which both circumvents and dissects McKenzie’s tune and its many cousins of the era. “I left my love in San Francisco/(That’s okay, I was bored anyway)/I left my love in a field/(That’s okay, I was born in LA)” goes the lovely call-and-response chorus, slamming together the archetypal flower children of the 60s and the archetypal ADHD vapidity of our recent generations. Another highlight, “Shuggie,” manages to fit all the light bounce of the song’s namesake and the climbing choruses of ELO into it’s 3 minutes while still filling the tune with imagery of “rhinoceros-shaped earrings” and haunted parlors. Every nook and cranny of the record is loaded with their unflappable, brazen personalities. Foxygen takes “swagger,” that as-of-late misused adjective, back once and for all. It’s flipping pyramids old and new upside down — from the miracle demo hand-off to their Richard Pryor-as-Jagger live shows to their singular idiosynchratic vision of rock n’ roll.

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