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 Scott Creney

Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic (Jagjaguwar)

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foxygen

By Scott Creney

The new Foxygen album is best appreciated if you empty yourself of all personality and worries before listening to it. This is not a record to be approached if you have a loved one in the hospital or are faced with encroaching debt or ephemeral darkness.

I almost wrote a good review about these guys last year when their debut came out, but I had just written about Mac DeMarco and I didn’t want to write the same thing twice (basically, a half-kidding this is so dumb it’s smart review). I’m all for not taking things seriously, but Foxygen is the kind of band that gives silliness and whimsy a bad name. And just like Mr. DeMarco, their new album does even less for me than the first one did. It’s like an annoying little kid telling you the one joke he knows over and over — it gets less funny every time I hear it.

That joke, in case you’re wondering, goes something like this: Hey, isn’t it funny that I’m playing this song? Did you hear where I mentioned cigar stores? Get it? And then on that song ‘Shuggie’, how it sounded like Shuggie Otis, but like I was kidding? Wasn’t that awesome?

The agony sounds tongue-in-cheek, the jokes sound like the singer knows they’re stupid, the chord progressions are rolled out because that’s what chord progressions do. It’s got a good sound to it, digitally reverbed in all the right places, but like, so what? I like sounds that sound like these sounds, but the idea of somebody paying their hard-earned[1] money to own (streaming & d/l-ing don’t bother me so much) the new Foxygen album fills me with an almost unbearable sense of hopelessness.

WAt21stCAoP&M offers vaguely Kinksy songwriting, vaguely psychedelic tendencies, vaguely upbeat music, vaguely melodic — you get the idea. This album is so half-assed I imagine Foxygen had to hire plumbers to come to their respective, bi-coastal apartments and install special toilet seats for them to shit into. The album has an inscrutable quality to it that exists because Foxygen has either de-scrutabilized it, or because it never occurred to them to put any ‘scrute’ in there in the first place[2]. In fact, they may have created the first post-scrutable album.

As transcendent art, it sucks. As a joke, it’s not very funny. So um, what’s the point? Diversion? Entertainment? I like this next song though, possibly a lot, but then I’m a sucker for melody, The Zombies, glockenspiels and all that.

It says here that Foxygen is a duo from LA now based out of Olympia and NYC, to which I reply no fucking shit. Like most cultural product generated by the upper-class these days[3], Foxygen communicate all kinds of stuff about its creators[4] that they most likely aren’t aware of[5], so it doesn’t exist as a statement, or as an object with a point of view. It’s no more a commentary on anything than commercials are statements about commercials. You can make the connections, but if you need to do 99% of the work in creating the meaning the question has to be asked — who’s the actual artist here?

And that’s the thing I can’t get past. There’s a dispassionate smug comfort at the heart of Foxygen’s work that I just can’t relate to. They’re content to be peripheral, to be an outward point on an ellipse rather than a focus, to merely exist, to deny the possibility of both triumph & failure. And I’ll never understand that attitude, probably because if I lived that way I’d have spent my life stuck in a decrepit El Cajon apartment covered in hangovers and surrounded by meth. Foxygen[6] lives in a world without struggle, a world without meaning, a place that bears no resemblance to the, you know, actual world.

And let’s be clear. This album is like miles better than say, the new Ra Ra Riot album. Now that’s a piece of shit if I ever heard one.

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[1] For the sake of argument let’s go ahead and assume this, but between you and me the only money that’s going to be spent on this was obtained through parents, trust funds or (ill-spent) student loans

[2] Which, let’s be honest, is the far likeliest of these two scenarios.

[3] I have no tangible proof that Foxygen exist in like Dunham-esque circles of privilege, but there’s a saying about walking and talking like ducks that seems appropriate here.

[4] Insular comfort, creative solipsism (not even ‘art for art’s sake’ but something more like ‘art for self’s sake’ — basically Katy Perry but w/ a modicum of underground cred), and the kind of bliss that is only obtainable when you care about nothing outside the universe-bubble of your own construction — that is to say, an empty and unimaginably lonely and fleeting kind of bliss, a bliss that becomes a prison that eventually turns into a hell.

[5] Not that this precludes them from thinking that their success is because of their own brilliance/hard work/ability to believe in one’s dreams of course.

[6] Note here that I am not talking about the individual band members, who I know nothing about. I’m talking specifically what’s implied in the music, because that’s all I have to go on.

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