Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
A warped retro-rock mixtape, blurring the line between parody and tribute
Midway through “Oh Yeah,” a psych-funk goof from Foxygen’s debut LP, the band launches into stoned hokey-pokey: “Put your left hand out and shake it all about,” yelp Jonathan Rado and Sam France, “It’s arms and legs, bacon and eggs.” The song shambles its way through a noisy dual guitar solo, chipmunk R&B falsettos, and a proggy instrumental climax, punctuated by a squealed “You’re freakin’ me out!” Talk about an understatement.
We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic is equal parts “so obnoxious, it’s excellent” and “so excellent, it’s obnoxious,” functioning as a warped retro-rock mixtape, blurring the line between parody and tribute. Like their fellow musical provocateurs MGMT, Foxygen clearly don’t take their grab-bag revisionist approach too seriously: With their bratty vocal stylings, goofy genre juxtapositions, and fondness for surreal wordplay, their songs carry an off-hand, tongue-in-cheek charm, even if the eclectic complexity of the arrangements suggests they’ve studied the vinyl of their ’70s forefathers with religious zeal.
Silliness sometimes overpowers style. “Bowling Trophies” is a blues-rock throwaway marred by studio hiss — just for the hell of sounding dated; on the drunken blues-rock title-track, France can’t decide whether to imitate Mick Jagger or Jim Morrison. Nonetheless, their highlights drop jaws: The flowery, faux-British psych-pop of “San Francisco” would come off as a Syd Barrett send-up, were it not so damn lush. “Shuggie” is the biggest revelation, a funky strut through trippy mellotrons, abrupt tempo changes, and “Age of Aquarius” group chants. In Foxygen’s restless hands, musical stupidity is savored like a fine wine.