Jonathan Rado, Law and Order
Louder, less baroque and more challenging than Foxygen
In an era when young bands rarely even survive long enough to forge an interesting back story, the debut solo album by Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado faces an interesting dilemma: too much context. Because, really, what did Foxygen — fucking Foxygen! — and its pair of precocious (but also highly derivative) 23-year-old retro-pop songwriters do to deserve the drama and intrigue that accompanies Law and Order? Go read about it elsewhere, if you’re so inclined.
Bottom line is that the dustup is not at Fleetwood Mac threat levels, even if Law and Order was also the title of Lindsey Buckingham’s first solo LP. Manufactured micro-controversy or not, it obscures what multi-instrumentalist Rado has accomplished here. Law and Order isn’t full of accusations and recriminations against his bandmates (Foxygen is still a going concern); in fact, the album is so loopy and diverse that anyone considering this to be a wise point of entry into a solo career would have to either be insane or Ween, which once turned stoned genre mimicry into high art.
Let’s examine a string of songs that suggest the Ween theory is more fitting, as Rado flits from a cornball ’60s go-go instrumental with killer drum breaks (“Dance Away Your Ego”), to a Ty Segall-style acid-garage freakout (“I Wood”), to a Kinks-y shuffle featuring Tim Presley of White Fence (“Faces”). The reductive assessment of Law and Order is that it’s simply louder and less baroque than Foxygen, but at the album’s corners — the punishing, bratty distortion of “I Wanna Feel It Now!!!,” the final track “Pot of Gold” and its ridiculous aping of Human League — it’s more challenging, too, and way more fun than Foxygen’s occasionally predictable ’60s/’70s rock groove.