So yeah, that kind of 60s thing is totally in right now.
You know what I’m talking about. It’s that colourful shit girls wear at festivals, those overpriced ‘vintage’ shops, that camera phone filter you deny using, oh and a dubious love of Andy Warhol and brown corduroy.
For the music industry it’s such a decade of such powerful nostalgia that it lets us get away with using the term “60s pop” when describing pretty awful contemporary music. It’s as if the veil of 60s retro protects music from the scrutiny of discerning listeners, who hand out free passes to inadequate musicians as though they are the only ones to ever attempt a revisit of previous cultural decades.
It’s with this cautionary spirit that I approach the music of Californian band Foxygen. With a reputation for pastiching The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, et al their elongated album title We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic (2013) warns of desperate songs, pumping lifelessly on the long dead body of the Peace Movement.
Yet, Foxygen indulge their listeners with a surprisingly sophisticated reinterpretation of ‘that vintage sound’. They pliably use their retro-repoitiore to produce a slick, yet eclectic, selection of songs.
Foremost is Foxygen's take on Mid-60s Dylanesque chording with the acoustic ballad No Destruction. Although after a dozen listens I still can’t quite shake the comparisons to ‘It’s All Over Now Baby Blue’, I don’t really care. They fucking nail it. Even when the off-beat electric guitar rhythm is yelling ‘Rock and Roll’ (by this blog’s namesake), it doesn’t phase me. It’s a song that goes along on its own pace, and thus takes a life of its own. Completely independent of their cult influences, in No Destruction Foxygen develops their own imagery that alludes to their own material past and present.
I’m talking to my grandma who lost her arms in the war/
The aliens and armory that bombed her cigar store
Now you think that I don’t know but I know you to know quite well/
That I caught you sipping milkshakes in the parlor of the hotel
Songs in 21st Century Ambassadors continue to lean on the sounds of the past. The soaring choruses of San Francisco yearn of The Zombies,whilst a Jagger swagger is strutting on the very Doors-y title track.
But thankfully it doesn’t get stale. I try my best to avoid making dumb comparisons between old and new artists (there’s always Pitchfork for that), but Foxygen make it somewhat inescapable. Through injecting their quirky images the band have cleverly managed to contemporise a very overworked sound.
Or listen to the full album here: #
Listen to this when:
Your life needs saving by Rock nd Roll
Another mixtape for y’all, check it out here: #the red mix4#
[0:00] Introduction: Kurt Cobain interviewed about falling in love etc
[0:17] 01: Keith & Tex / Tonight
[2:52] 02: Maps & Atlases / Carrying The Wet Wood
[6:03] 03: Donovan / Season Of The Witch
[10:55] 04: The Acorn / Glory
[15:26] 05: Fleetwood Mac / Hypnotised
[20:12] 06: Sean Hayes / Garden
[23:52] 07: Mac Demarco / Ode To Viceroy
[27:18] 08: Blind Melon / No Rain
[31:26] 09: Joan Baez / Silver Dagger
[33:51] 10: Leonard Cohen / Famous Blue Raincoat
Hit the above link to stream or download
Magik Markers frontwoman Elisa Ambrogio is awkwardly bent over her electric guitar. Her face, and most of the instrument is veiled behind a mass of dark hair which trembles as she violently strums the strings. It looks as though the guitar neck is protruding from the heart of her distorted body.
Listening to the Connecticut outfit Magic Markers is certainly a consuming experience. Comparable perhaps to the feeling that any teenager who has ever plugged in a cheap electric guitar and endlessly thrashed out some Nirvana cover at full volume will be all too familiar with.
However MM are certainly no amateurs, supporting the alt-icons Sonic Youth back 2004 (when Kim and Thurston were still together…). Yet unlike Sonic Youth, MM doesn’t have a LP with cult following, and even the whole concept of ‘song’ or ‘album’ is unfamiliar to the band. Instead their fandom comes from their intense on-stage sonic explorations and countless bootlegged tapes and CDrs. Oh how very rock-n-roll.
MM’s most recent release Surrender to the Fantasy (2013) is the band’s attempt to put years worth of worth of ideas and sounds into studio-recorded songs. The result is a somewhat disjointed yet impressive effort.
Buried in the relatively brief album is American Sphinx Face, a surging manifesto of sound that would fit perfectly on Sonic Youth's 1992 album Dirty. It’s easy to get wrapped up in MM’s sound and not give a shit about the lyrics, but you’d be missing out. On American Sphinx Face Ambrogio’s words read like a Ginsberg poem:
"In America every man is a king/ not a good king but a dead king/ I’ve got no feudal feeling"
The variety of songs on Surrender to the Fantasy prove that MM aren’t just mundanely making sounds with their instruments. On the spaciously unpolished song Acts of Desperation, Ambrosio quite beautifully holds the song with her soaring voice. Yet her self-indulgent solo fumblings on the guitar could use a bit more polish.
This is where Surrender to the Fantasyfalls just short. MM haven’t quite completely surrendered themselves to the studio (recorded in a basement). Without the cutting image of Ambrosio straddling her guitar, I can’t quite excuse the moments of staunchy no-tempo rhythm or overused vocal feedback, particularly on opening track, Crebs.
Despite moments of sheer sonic brilliance, as a ‘complete’ album Surrender to the Fantasyis scattered at best.
Listen to this when:
teenage angst has paid off well
Hit up this link: #the red mix# for a download or stream of the following mixtape lovingly curated by yours truly:
[0:00] 01: Chrome Sparks / Marijuana
[2:55] 02: The Beach Boys / Feel Flows
[7:33] 03: Neon Indian / Heart: Decay
[9:08] 04: Supertramp / Crime of the Century
[12:48] Interlude: Lou Reed guest hosting WPIX Radio
[13:52] 05: The Dandy Warhols / Sleep
[19:34] 06: Tame Impala / Prototype (Outkast cover)
[23:42] 07: The Doors / Cars Hiss By My Window
[27:50] 08: Com Truise / Controlpop
[32:48] 09: Oh Mercy / Deep Heat
[36:26] 10: Blithe Field / Take Three
"He says he’s a beautician and sells you nutrition" — The Jean Genie ~ David Bowie