Just over a year an a half ago Foxygen put out their last record, the pretty much perfect We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace And Magic. It was a brilliant example of a modern psychedelic band delivering a consice yet sonically captivating LP while still managing to push things forward. A rare feat in an a genre pushing a half century. It's ten tracks were arranged with creativity and focus while still managing to get their point across with very little fat. They've decided to do things a little differently on ...And Star Power.
...And Star Power is a massive undertaking for anyone who wants to get anything out of it. Gone are the fresh faced psych pop hits of their last album. In their place we get twenty four tracks clocking in at just over eighty two minutes. The album is split into five parts. Part one is (maybe ironically) called 'The Hits'. There is nothing even resembling a hit here yet in comparison to the rest of the album it's like listening to Madonna fronting Duran Duran. Single Cosmic Vibrations starts off with a screetching organ and drum machine drone before going into a slow Brian Jonestown Massacre-via-Lambchop baritone vs falsetto bliss out. It's the last minute of the song where it picks up the pace and goes all white gospel. Foxygen do that a lot. It's fun stuff however it sounds like it would have been more fun to make.
Part two is simply called 'Star Power Suite'. It's like a bizarre take on club music of different eras done by Zappa. "Overture" has elements of Arthur Russell jamming with the Mothers Of Invention, "Star Power Nite" is paranoid punk with a bit of B-52's thrown in. "What Are We Good For?" sounds like Supergrass apeing Lou Reed with a Partridge Family chorus while "Ooh Ooh" is garage Bacharach. Star Power Suite is over in less than 10 minutes and covers more stylistic ground than a fucking Ween record. Absolutely mental.
Things get a whole lot more sombre on part 3 "The Paranoid Side". At times the mood is reminiscent of Blonde On Blonde era Dylan doing his best Syd Barratt impression. It's the production here which stands out the most though. All the tracks are kind of low to mid tempo indie psych jams but they are mixed so uncoventionally that they take on an otherwordly feel. The drums in particular sound like nothing I have heard; metronomic, dead and panned so they sound like you are tripping in the ocean. The two minute instrumental "Wally's Farm" is pure Hot Rats Zappa. Insane keyboard sounds float around a waltzing drum beat. It's frivolity is a welcome respite from the general mood of 'The Paranoid Side'.
Its on part 4 'Journey Through Hell' where the trip gets heavy. "Cold Winter/Freedom" is doomy headfuck material of the highest order. Think Butthole Surfers "22 Going On 23" but less rapey. It's scary stuff. "Journey Through Hell" is what it claims to be. Satanic noises attacking you with the sound of dingy underground rock clubs pulstaing in the background. It's like being in a k-hole on a nightclub toilet floor. The only real respite is on the (ever so weird) "Brooklyn Police Station" a track which sounds like the Monkees playing live in that dream where you are flying and your teeth are falling out at the same time.
It all ends with the gorgeous "Everyone Needs Love" and "Hang", the two tracks on part 5 'Hang On To Love'. These are the most conventional songs on the entire record as well as the most uplifting. "Everyone Needs Love" seemlessly moves from Fleetwood Mac to Zappa to Yes to basically any over the top 70s rock band you could think of in just under seve minutes. It's a funny trip back to a time before the band were even alive but then again thats what Foxygen are all about.
To paraphrase US comedian Doug Stanhope, ...And Star Power is like animal porn - it's not for everyone. It's not anything near as conventional as Foxygen's previous work. It's often brutal, muddy, some songs can drag on a bit while some are cut off before they get a chance to realize their potential. In saying that, however, it is an experiment which works on numerous levels. The production is perhaps the most interesting production this writer has heard on a psychedlic record since Boris put out Rainbow. It seamlessly hops from genre to genre, theme to theme and influence to influence while still sounding exactly like Foxygen. They manage to reference and innovate without sounding like the are trying to force anything on to you.
Yes, Foxygen could have made another 10 track corker if they wanted to but they didn't. They made this - and they nailed it.