Foxygen sure are a band to envy. Now in their twelfth year and fresh off the back of what is now their fourth album, it’s incredible to think Sam France and Jon Rado originally started making music under the moniker when they were only aged fifteen. To the majority of that generation the same outburst of expressionism was more likely channelled via significantly less noble methods: i.e. their high school nu-metal covers band that we’d all now much rather forget. That is, of course, up until growing mistakenly inebriated at a friend-of-a-friends’ house party and some stranger throws on a 4am play of My Own Summer, whereby subsequently the smug grin that comes from blabbing completely off-key, albeit with verbal precision, proves inescapable. It’s a slippery slope.
France and Rado, however, were doing more admirable things with their time out of class. Following a number of years putting out a variety of EP’s and singles the duo finally attracted the attention of (predominantly) alternative media with their breakout record, Take the Kids off Broadway, in the summer of 2012.
Stylistically Broadway, along with its follow-up, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, which followed but only six months after, introduced the band as a playful and hyperactive unit, brimming with ideas responding to the mass of genres that spanned the canonical baby-boomer era. In so far as they’ve been known, it’s always been their chief area of exploration and involvement since. However, with each passing album, France and Rado find new bases on which to prop their same general conversation. And whilst the song writing and period of influence may vary, sometimes as often as track by track, it’s never deterring.
In fact their identity is best understood in the conceptual bodies of the albums themselves. This has especially rung true moving forward from 2014’s …And Star Power, a record which, aside from imposing a stark familiarity in its collagist Art-Rock to that of a Tusk-era Fleetwood Mac, also happened to tell a loose story regarding a fictional Rock group, the name of whom is paraphrased from its title. Though, on contemplating the many outspoken reports of Foxygen’s troubles with in-fighting, the albums’ role as an outlet for France to vent his withheld frustrations about his own band seems a tad more plausible.
That might also go some length to explain the subsequent three year bout of silence on the release front, what with Hang being their first full-length since. However Hang doesn’t land with any impression that its purpose is to serve as a last attempt to salvage their unity. If anything it’s an announcement, or more a celebration, confirming any dysfunction to be a novelty of the past; a statement of new beginnings, only emphasised by the tag-line lifted from the press release billing the record as their “first proper studio album”.
And what better way to cement your intentions for future longevity than to invest in a 40-piece orchestra to accompany your return. Sure, the idea may seem bombastic to some. But to Foxygen ‘bombast’ at this stage is surely a term of virtue; the grandiose brass and strong melodies that perpetuate the songs on Hang see not only to confirm that, but ultimately give insight into the real depth and versatility of their writing. Almost effortlessly, France and Rado have come up trumps yet again, this time embodying both the theatrics and the substance of Glam-Rock and Soul, and with a sense of cool one would expect from a pair of veterans. It’s not that they’re posers with any shameful tendency for getting bored that see’s them gravitate anew so swiftly. Nothing remotely as such; they’re just simply more willing to challenge themselves the moment they catch wind of the opportunity, regardless of where the controversy may manifest.
So what will the next chapter offer? Not that it matters, of course. What ever happens, the story it will live to tell will be fascinating enough. I assure you.
Hang is available now on Jagjaguwar.