About this time last year Tame Impala’s psych vibes were only familiar to a small-ish band of very cool psych heads. Then came that single, the genius album and world domination, and a BlackBerry ad, followed.
Another psych band who I think might just be about to take off in the same way are LA’s Foxygen. Put simply they are, IMO, the best American band, since oooh The Strokes. Their debut EP, Take the Kids Off Broadway, was fun but their new album which came out a few weeks ago, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, I do not think will be bettered this year. It really is that exceptional.
Admittedly ace producer Richard Swift has shorn the band of some of their quirkiness, but by making them focus on the songs themselves, and the superbly clever arrangements, he has done them a huge favour.
That isn’t to say you haven’t heard some of the music before. But this is no Oasis style slavish homage to long gone musical era. For me the band’s spiritual forbears are the incredible US psych band The United States of America, a band whose only album drew heavily on all manner of American music – from classical through to gospel and folk – to create what was for the time an astonishingly ambitious record.
And so it is with Foxygen. There’s a whiff of Elvis here, a Dylan touch there. I can also make out snatches of cult acts like The Music Machine (in On Blue Mountain) and The Zombies too. But even if moments of the songs sound familiar the tracks themselves are utterly unique and never ever short of incendiary.
Best tracks? Well all of them. But you have to love the opener In The Darkness for its Magical Mystery Tour era Beatles sunny optimism and Shuggie for its really clever structure and killer chorus. And then there’s No Destruction already infamous for its line – ‘You don’t have be an asshole you are not in Brooklyn any more,’ pay off line. In San Francisco (see above) they have a gorgeous tune that sounds like Syd Barrett fronting Belle & Sebastian.
Also in an era of faceless musicians, frontman Sam France has the swagger, the self-belief and the hair to rival Jacco Gardner as the poster boy for a new generation of psych acts
Just pray that the don’t do a Strokes and piss any momentum they had away by hanging out with models and starring in lame fashion shoots
Foxygen have just played a series of sold out dates in London. I saw them at The Lexington and they are every bit as manic and ambitious live as they are on record.
They will be the biggest psych band of the year, no question, and maybe as huge as Tame Impala were last year. Perhaps what they lack is that annoying killer track for BBC 6 Music to get all over like the Impala’s Elephant. I am sure that will come.
They are back in the UK in June, so make sure you catch them then.
Here are some images from the gig the other night courtesy of Ashley Nissim.