When the hype first began burbling for the upstart Californians with a cheeky moniker, I tweeted that “with a name like Foxygen, they’d better be good.”
When I first began listening to Foxygen, on its promising 2012 debut EP Take The Kids Off Broadway and now on the fully realized long-player, I thought that if these two time-travellers were going to loot lysergic-era Rolling Stones, they’d better outdo Their Satanic Majesties Request.
And I guess I think if these two marmalade sky-divers were audacious enough to name their album We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic, they’d better be just that.
Mission accomplished; the representation is fine.
What’s in the water of Agoura Hills, Calif., where singer Sam France and instrumentalist Jonathan Rado base themselves, is an open guess.
No one is going to take the key to a certain California city away from the late Scott McKenzie, who sang gentle and hippy-high about blooming hair accessories and a place where people were in motion. But Foxygen’s easygoing San Francisco wears Lennon granny glasses and mellows any stressful situation. Somewhat similar to Tony Bennett, Foxygen’s France left his love in San Francisco; unlike Bennett, France has a soothing vocal counterpoint assuring him, “that’s okay, I was bored anyway.”
The shape-shifting Shuggie is a slinky homage to the California soulster and afro aficionado from the seventies, Shuggie Otis, with bold intrusions of Godspell-style freakouts and softer string-and-flute moments.
In the Darkness imagines Mick Jagger strolling blissfully with George Martin along Penny Lane.
No Destruction has druggier Leonard Cohen likenesses, or maybe Velvet Underground, with some Lou Reed sass: “There’s no need to be an asshole / you’re not in Brooklyn any more.” Throw in a little Dylan-y harmonica, too, why not?
So, sure, Foxygen is derivative. But cleverly, with a wink. Life is free and grand on the psychedelic playground, where the swings are set extra high – nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about. Peace? Magic? No one’s had their fill of those things yet.
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