Many of us have heard the crazy and exciting stories coming from the counterculture of the ‘60s and ‘70s, a time of civil rights, second-wave feminism, LSD and, of course, the radical changes in the way music reflected the complexity of human nature. Westlake Village experimental rock duo Foxygen, composed Sam France and Jonathan Rado, takes us right back to that time when Sunset Boulevard was teeming with hippies and movie stars with their third album “…And Star Power.” At a staggering 1 hour and 22 minutes, the album takes you back and forth on a journey from psychedelia, soft rock, folk and even post-punk. I can say with confidence that Foxygen does their absolute best to blend nostalgic memories with modern perspectives on life.
At the start of your trip, “Star Power Airlines” will take off with the electronic static synth sound reminiscent of a jet engine and ascend to dizzying heights, filled with random yells and drum solos. Foxygen is not afraid to abruptly shift moods in this album, only sparingly hinting at what comes next. Coming to a stable and smooth altitude, “How Can You Really” highlights the banging of ivories on the piano and pain-filled dreamy crooning associated with Electric Light Orchestra’s “Evil Woman.” Both of these tracks are about a strained relationship and lack of commitment. It’s not hard to see that Foxygen highly respects classic artists like the Eagles in “Coulda Been My Love,” which sounds like a slower and melancholic version of “Best of My Love.” The liberal application of echoed angelic backup vocals feels like Free Love is alive today as much as it was in 1973.
This album is a prime example of experimental rock of the late ‘60s. It’s clear from the low droning vocals that induce feelings of tripping out, unorthodox instruments like the marimba and synth organ and recordings of broken dialogue and everyday objects like broken glass. Track seven is “Star Power II: Star Power Nite,” which gives a nod to Kim Gordon’s acoustic vocals in Sonic Youth’s “Kool Thing” and focuses on repetitive power chords, bringing the flavor of post-punk into the mix of psychedelic and soft rock. “I Don’t Have Anything/The Gate” also keeps in tune with the album’s shifty and unorganized nature. The acoustic guitar and piano sections remind me of the Wall of Sound, giving the track a more ethereal aura that almost induces a dreamlike state.
Just when you think “…And Star Power” was just going to be a mix of progressive rock and soft ballads, “Hot Summer” snaps you out of that assumption with its repetitive hi-hats, church organ loops and random screeches and yells. Experimentation is key to side three of the album (if it was an LP record), and listeners should be prepared for an audio assault of primal scream methods, reverberated guitars and muffled drum beats. If you so dare to listen to “Can’t Contextualize My Mind,” it’ll feel like driving through Hollywood dodging Trans-Ams and Camaros on your way to the hills. The mishmash of bluesy and tipsy guitar riffs and proto-metal shredding seems to reflect the brain under the stress of the post-countercultural world.
Foxygen does a great job with their time-traveling “…And Star Power.” There is an equal amount of variety in genres ranging from Fleetwood Mac-type ballads all the way to Rolling Stones-like garage rock. I personally felt that some tracks of the second half of the album had elements that were scattered everywhere and had no feeling of order; the first half was definitely nostalgic and happy, if not pensive and thoughtful. It’s safe to say Foxygen does their job of honoring LA’s musical heritage both beautifully and authentically.
Rating: 4.5 stars