The third offering from California neo-psychedelica wunderkinds Foxygen, let’s make it clear, is largely full of individually great songs. Following on from the resoundingly pleasant tones of their second full-length, the boldly titled ‘We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace, Love and Magic’, the boys mine their exhaustive record collections ever more deeper, pushing their horizons outward to provide us a tapestry speckled with a greater variety of shades. While the wizened shadows of Messrs. Jagger, Richards and Wood loomed over their previous offerings, and certainly still have their influence, here Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd provide a welcome expansion, and perhaps, at their most zany, even Beefheart has his role to play; ‘..And Star Power’ is an attempt to write a bona-fide prog album (even if work indebted to the progressive music of yesteryear presents something of a conundrum).
So it was made with good intentions, then. However, when it comes to progressive rock, we must consider the album as a cohesive work rather than merely a series of interchangeable nice tunes, and in this respect the album largely fails; not due to the quality of the songs themselves, but due to the incoherence of its internal narrative. It’s confusing, and confused; imagine Dark Side of The Moon, recorded without any regard for the flawless way in which songs can interact with each other. This is amply demonstrated within the first few tracks; the introduction, ‘Star Power Airlines’, simply gave me a false impression for the rest of the album. Chock-full of guitar squalls and pummelling drums, it was an exciting start, and easy to interpret as a statement of intent for what would follow; but when an anaemic mid tempo piano ballad by the name of ,’How Can You Really’, immediately followed it up, crashing (or more like sauntering arrogantly) in with no warning, as if it had been plonked down by a particularly disinterested builder, I was left flabbergasted, much as you would be if someone approached you on the street, punched you savagely about the head, and then offered you a banana. It was surprising, certainly, but about as subtle as a boot to the face.
In addition, the album occasionally veers into downright obnoxious territory (did HALF of ‘Cold Winter/Freedom’ really have to be self-indulgent noise?) Although there are still plenty of tracks which still demonstrate the boys’ undeniable ability to write heartfelt, emotive songs when the mood strikes (see the heartbreaking lyrics of ‘Coulda Been My Love’, the Gilmour-channelling space-rock of ‘Cosmic Vibrations’, and the ballsy stomp of ‘Freedom II’), the prevailing mood here is one of trying FAR too hard to surprise the listener. I’m not by any means trying to condemn an expansive attitude to songwriting, but here it simply fails to translate, lacking any of the internal cohesiveness of the masterworks of its heroes. It’s sporadic, apparently merely for its own sake. Perhaps this is a breathtakingly bold undertaking, and its innovation is lost on me. However, the final verdict is that I can’t help but be reminded of a toddler trawling through his favourite toys, briefly playing with one, albeit with genuine enthusiasm, for a while and then moving to something else; apparently completely on a whim.