After Foxygen’s last record, 2013’s We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace Jonathan Rado and Sam France have gained notoriety for their unpredictability. A year of losing band-members, cancellation-stricken touring, mid-show bone breakages and alcohol-related incarcerations has culminated in their fourth LP …And Star Power and – perhaps as expected – the duo venture further into experimentation than they ever have.
The record starts with part one of the first of four ‘sides’ – ‘The Hits’ – named evidently for it’s reigned, radio-ready sound. Standout single ‘How Can You Really’ is a rousing, Todd Rundgren throwback with great instrumentation and a catchy, if maybe over-repeated chorus delivered by France in several recorded voices that each sound 10 beers deep by the final refrains and eventual fade-out.
‘Star Power Suite’ is part two of the record’s first side – instrumental opener ‘Overture’ sets a new tone with a looped bass synth and gated piano line that eventually falls into a delicate, melancholic refrain, that shares that same seventies aesthetic of much of the album. The rest of the ‘suite’ climbs further into experimentation and howling voices and murmurs become frequently audible, France’s voice increasingly wavering as the album moves towards it’s third instalment…
‘Side Two: The Paranoid Side’ marks a slide in the album’s strength and certainly in any sense of purpose, as songs like ‘666’ offer merely sloppy writing and howling or screeching deliveries from France, that become more irritating than atmospheric or emotive. Chord progressions become increasingly familiar, and the careless recording that at first held a typically Foxygen throwback charm takes more and more impact and coherence away from songs, and the album’s remainder entails more similarity than the development that it’s opening might have hinted at. Only ‘Cold Winter’ offers a remotely different sonic texture and it’s a crashing composition of distortion that conjures a landscape reminiscent of the title, antithetical of the album’s previous aesthetic.
…And Star Power is a record that sounds like an evening soaked in too much LSD and cheap American beer, it has moments of great conception and a few really good tracks – Foxygen’s strength is in their unique talent for emulating the sound and feel of the early seventies – but anyone willing to sit and trip with the guys on this one will find that behind all of …And Star Powers incoherent experimentation and wacky sounds, is little substance or consistency. My advice: Stick to the beer.