The poor, innocent members of the psychedelic Californian band Foxygen surely must have spent their youth absorbing the Great Boomer Lie: that the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and the Doors were not only bands but magical entities, unique icons that changed the face of history forever. Foxygen draw specific sounds from these bands, but more than that they draw from the scripts of late night Time Life infomercials selling compilations of decade-specific music. What else could explain this interminable 82-minute psychedelic slog that is Foxygen’s third LP?
Foxygen have promoted …And Star Power with a straight-faced grandiosity: It’s a double-album that alternates between Foxygen and Star Power, “alter egos for me and Sam [France, lead singer]” guitarist/keyboardist Jonathan Rado has explained. “[J]ust to have a band that isn’t Foxygen, that can do whatever the (expletive) they want and have no repercussions.” This reasoning might come as a surprise for fans of their second, breakout album, 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic, an album where Foxygen seemed to do whatever the (expletive) they wanted just fine. Over the double LP, Star Power “slowly takes over the album, and by, like, the third side of it, they’ve completely taken over, and so it’s just complete chaos,” Rado has said. “And it’s kind of like, we just wanted an album to slowly disintegrate as it went on.”
…And Star Power certainly disintegrates, but at a much faster clip than Rado and France originally imagined. Are there any differences between tracks like “Can’t Contextualize My Mind” and “Brooklyn Police Station” or “I Don’t Have Anything/The Gate” and “Everyone Hang On”? On a technical level the answer is yes, but over the course of listening to Star Power they all merge together, with no distinguishing features or uniquely recognizable moments. The conceptual underpinnings seem intriguing, but there is just no trace of them in the music: “Cannibal Holocaust,” for example, plays a meandering keyboard rhythm over the reverbed, repeated vocals, “Stop telling lies.” “Coulda Been My Love” is a psych-pop track ostensibly about a lost love, but features lyrics like “You can do what you want/ It’s just what we do,” sung with so little feeling it sounds like France is singing to a picture of a picture of a picture that he bought at a thrift shop.
There’s a fine EP to be found within Star Power, particularly on the five-part “Star Power” suite on the album’s first side. There, over nine minutes, a hard-rock jam builds and the cowbell on “Star Power III: What Are We Good For” comes as a pleasant jolt. But five enjoyable tracks out of 24 is not an inspiring average. For Foxygen’s next tricks, they’re planning a Harry Nilsson-influenced orchestral record followed by a “pretty weird” “synth record.” Those are lofty ambitions, but if they measure up to their aspirations as poorly Star Power does, we should all avert our eyes now.