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The Brimming Genius of Foxygen

Copyright: Jagjaguar

Pouring through the comments, possibly of some Dylan rarity, I found articulated with all the vitriol I’ve felt since the age of about 11 the following observation: ‘All music nowadays is sh*t’. Quite. Rebuttal from some defender of the 21st century and its musical possibilities came in the form the form of this video. And by God, what a rebuttal.

Shot swiftly from some warehouse in whichever part of the country online vendors must operate to avoid certain tax obligations, the band’s latest – ‘We Are 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic’. A tad more ambitious than the ‘Village Green Preservation Society’.

What arrived was an album which, more than nearly any other of the last thirty years shows an admirable and enviable ability to conjure vocally Dylan, The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Beach Boys, Small Faces and many more besides at whim. The record is a collage of the sounds a four year period between about 1965 – 69 when those artists were at the peak of their powers. Only The Dukes of Stratosphere and Rutles have ever done it better, and each of those were played firmly with tongue in cheek.

“‘No Destruction’ could be the finest mid-sixties Dylan homage ever concocted. By anybody. Ever.”

Which isn’t to say that this is simply nostalgia by numbers, nor a Rutle-tastic Magical History Tour of the era in tongue in cheek pastiches. It’s a mark of Foxygen’s ability that an album which draws its influences from an era that nobody under the age of around fifty is going to be able to remember actually happening with any serious conviction doesn’t seem at all contrived or forced.

In the Darkness’ sets the needle down at the opening to Sgt. Peppers channelled through Mick Jagger taking a trip in the countryside with Ray Davies. Yes, as good as that. ‘No Destruction’ could be the finest mid-sixties Dylan homage ever concocted. By anybody. Ever. It plays like Pavement throwing in a cover of Positively 5th Street during a set circa 1994’s Crooked Rain period, but without the lacsidasicality. Every piece of the puzzle, the parlour piano, the whirring organ, the barely there guitars are painted expertly and fitted together.

Not that the palette is limited to Americana; any American band who talks so much about tea is always going to have an irresistible charm. The declaration ‘I left my love in San Francisco’ sounds more like they could be talking about ‘Forever Changes’. And so the album goes, veering in and out of styles and moods before ending with a pitch perfect Brian Wilson speaking to God farewell. And then the vinyl comes off and inevitably turns over and spins away again for 37 glorious minutes.

Retrogression clearly isn’t for everybody, even critics who end their reviews with one of the less used Withnail and I quotable quotes. But Peace and Magic’ has been a fine partner of mine for near on half a year now, and I have the new, probably laudably bloated, follow up pre-ordered. Eighty-two minutes of new material, crammed onto a pair of vinyls will be winging their way to my door next week. Roll on Monday.