Album Review: Foxygen's "…And Star Power"

Aiden Dobens ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Cover art of ...And Star Power. Photo Credit: Jagjaguwar.
Cover art of …And Star Power. Photo Credit: Jagjaguwar.
Oh Foxygen, you crazy kids.
Foxygen, a group comprised of high school buddies, Sam France and Jonathan Rado, have released their 3rd studio album, an 82 minute project entitled ...And Star Power.
Fresh off their success from their 2nd album, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic,  …And Star Power is a different beast altogether. For those who haven’t heard, Foxygen are a indie-psychedelic-whatever you wanna call it- rock band that channel a lot of 60‘s rock and create some brilliant music.
In accordance with that style,  ...And Star Power reminds the listener of the organization of an album like Pink Floyd’s The Wall. No one is going to listen to “Outside The Wall” on its own, yet The Wall is still considered a great album.
Similarly, a few songs off …And Star Power aren’t particularly appealing when listened to individually, but then again, they aren’t supposed to be. Foxygen takes us on a musical odyssey that can still be contemplated days after listening.

The album is split into four sections, each of which has its own personality. As Rado explains in a recent interview with William Ruof of The State Press: “Star Power is a loose concept record that starts out with Foxygen opening the album and then this fake punk band that we made up called Star Power, like, slowly takes over the album.”
The first section, “The Hits and Star Power Suite”, does basically what it says. “How Can You Really,” the first real song on the album, pulls the listener in with its light vocals, catchy hook, and upbeat instrumentals. The following songs are just as conventional, with a more melancholy feel than the opener, yet equally as attractive.
This side continues with its second section “Star Power Suite” with “Star Power I-IV”, a set of 4 eclectic songs. “Star Power I: Overture” is a lovely piano ballad, and it could have been a great full length song. “Star Power III: What Are We Good For” throws us back to the upbeat feel of the earlier part of the album, and the brilliant use of backup singers will be an important feature throughout the album.
Moving on, “Side Two: The Paranoid Side” starts getting a little funky. “Mattress Warehouse,” “Flowers,” and “Wally’s Farm” all feature heavy use of synthesizers and trippy background noises, which causes a very psychedelic feel to this section, straying from the more conservative “How Can You Really.”

This side ends with “Cannibal Holocaust,” which is among the best tracks on the album. Despite its name, this is actually one of the lighter and catchier songs. While it starts off slow, the tempo speeds up about two-thirds in, and the backup singers harmoniously echo Sam’s repeated declaration “Stop telling me lies”.
“Side Three: Scream, A Journey Through Hell” is, much like the beginning of the album, exactly what it sounds like. This is the part of the album where Foxygen’s alter ego, Star Power, really get their chance to shine. These songs are a spastic compilation of sounds, often void of any lyrics, with jarring noises and random chatter.
Some parts of side three sound like Foxygen gave 4 hours of studio time to a bunch of wild kids with their only instructions being: play (see: “Cold Winter/Freedom”).

To be fair, “Brooklyn Police Station” is a fun Rolling Stones/The Ramones-esque jam,  which manages to channel some of Star Power’s energy into a coherent and thoroughly enjoyable song.
The final side, “Hang on to Love”, sees Foxygen emerge from the darkness of Star Power and leaves us with a hope for the future. “Everybody Needs Love” is a 7 minute reminder that the world isn’t all bad and “Hang” does a lovely job of lackadaisically getting us across the finish line.
The structure of this album is much like that of a Shakespearean play. We enter into the album lightly and easily, which is an introduction before we enter into the plot. Then, we get rising tension through their gradually experimental sound. The climax hits us around side three with a cathartic energy, either Star Power is in complete control, or Foxygen will return. The denouement and conclusion is the return of Foxygen in the carefree sound of side four.
What really differentiates …And Star Power is that rather than being a bunch of songs on the same album, this is a story, a work of art. Sure, side three has a few songs that remind you of a bad acid trip from a Hunter S. Thompson novel, but again, that’s sort of the point. All books, movies, and stories, will go through different phases. These aren’t just individual songs you can pick and choose from the iTunes store. This is a carefully crafted narrative.

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One Comment

  1. Great review. Unlike every other review I’ve read, you get the point of the album. It’s apparent you actually listened to it, as opposed to many reviewers who I suspect gave up before digesting the whole album. Good call on Cannibal Holocaust, definitely one of the highlights.

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