We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
US: 22 Jan 2013
UK: 21 Jan 2013
If you’re looking for trailblazin’ originality, intellectual innovation, visionaries and pioneers spiking their flags triumphantly aloft some strange new musical world… well, then you’d best trot on as there’s nowt for you here. Foxygen’s We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (cough) is the sound of two cheeky musical magpies feverishly and irreverently raiding your folks’ loft, causing a right ruckus, without the slightest concern for your ‘rules and regulations’ “Daddio”. Such pick-pocketing deviancy would usually earn such rapscallions a five-to-ten stretch at Her Majesty’s Pleasure were it not for the fact that their shenanigans have delivered such a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed bundle of goofy merriment. It’d take one cold, dead heart to witness axe-spanker Jonathan Rado and space-cadet Sam France’s second born and not conclude “Go on then ya wee scamps, five more minutes then lights out, you’ve got school in the morning!”
Peace & Magic very much tag-teams last year’s toe-dippin’ début Take the Kids Off Broadway. A record best described as “a valentine to vintage” or perhaps “slightly schizophrenic”. Again the nine toons here twist ‘n’ shout like a screw loose radio dial beaming back Planet 1967. The first transmission “In the Darkness” being a handshaking, top hat doffing introduction to their old new world. Tune in, drop out, sod work and “I don’t care if I’m in trouble at allll”. A twirl of handlebar moustache horns, McCartney moptop bass, wonky tonk piano, Shea Stadium screamin’ and Sgt. Pepper’s gotta brand new bag.
Once aboard we’re led through a circus of rock royalty circa the summer o’ love. The daisy blowin’ “No Destruction” swings hands in the park with Dylan and Donovan hip-tripping “through the door of consciousness”. Hazy days n’ harmonicas across the streets of San Francisco waving a smiley-face placard emblazoned “There’s no need to be an asshole / You know you’re not in Brooklyn anymore.” Much of Peace’s high humour twinkles within its freestylin’ kaleidoscopic eye, “I’m talking to my grandma who’s lost her arms in the war.” The acoustic, Mellotron marvel, “San Francisco” itself is similarly charming. A Grade-A pop delight it’s where Foxygen slide one winkle picker’d toe beyond pure pastiche. As crazy ‘n’ crazy in love as Peter Sarstedt’s “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)” it’s salute-inducingly triumphant. France, possibly now resplendent in cravat and beatnik beret, pines for an abandoned amour. “I left my love in San Francisco…I left my love in a field” before his devotee dolefully replies “That’s OK, I was bored anyway.” Elsewhere, the swagger ‘n’ drawl of “Oh Yeah” mixes a Sly Stones cocktail – “The discotheque inside my mind” of Mick n’ Keef’ circa Some Girls with a dash o’ the Family Stones’ “If You Want Me to Stay”. Soulful, crunky funky but cocky ‘n’ goofy to boot, “You can chew on gum / If it makes you have fun.” A whoop of “FREAKOUT!” ushers in a “Wind Cries Mary” melon twistin’ conclusion and somewhere an envious Bobby Gillespie simmers behind green eyes.
But not all of Peace is magic. Such rapidfire rock ‘n’ roll rubberneckin’ does cause mild discomfort as the spectres of pop past wrestle for control o’ the dial. The shape-shifting, cool-like-Cannes, “Shuggie” pits the Gauloises ghost of Serge Gainsbourg against the lace n’ heels of Prince circa-Parade in a Dirty Rotten Scoundrels-esque playboy turf war. All “Bonnie & Clyde” bassline seduction one moment, a Prancin’ Purple Pervert of Pop Parisian funktasm the next. “I met your daughter the other day / And that was weird,” quips France nonchalantly. Throughout you’d be forgiven for standing up and yelling “Goddammit! Imitate, oops, sorry ‘homage’ ONE legend at a time pur-lease”. The tunefree “On Blue Mountain” is a jarring hotch-potch of Lennon’s funereal “Mother” and the Stones’ struttin’ “Under My Thumb”. Later the cigarette break / costume change instrumental “Bowling Trophies” offers slim pickings whilst the title track similarly tickles n’ tests in equal measure. A superfast Stooges’ ‘amphetamines for breakfast again’ wigout laced with France firing random drug-induced missives through a tannoy before finishing with a Doorsy mojo tripout and a sideorder of Sergio Leone. It’s possible Foxygen are on the lam from the Rock Cops and are trying to evade capture at all costs via a series of increasingly elaborate disguises. Some may find their inability to remain seated, or even in the same country as their seats, ‘disconcerting’.
The ride ends with some semblance of serenity though. The melting heartache of “Oh No 2” shoots for some of the White Album’s more reflective moments. Mournful melodies landslide to a black hole crescendo a la “Day in the Life”. Just in case it gets too, y’know, ‘serious’ a stern authoritative figure imparts helpful hallucinogenic wisdoms like “I’m standing on the bed / Birds were landing on my head.” Crack is wack kids. Less a song then more that “Wooah dude, the sun’s not yellow it’s chicken” feeling. Just in case some curmudgeons may depart Peace & Magic feeling annoyed with these pesky kids for being, well, pesky, they bow with a Daniel Johnston-worthy romantic ragtime reprise of “Everything you see is love / Be what God wants you to be.” Thus, Peace’s message remains to the last, ultimately difficult to begrudge.
Peace & Magic is Hanna Barbera Rock N’ Roll. Flintstones meet the Rolling Stones. A modern day stoned age family and literally “a page right out of history.” It’s sugar-rush shambolic, somewhat shallow, it won’t change your life and pours nothing new into the Cauldron Du Rock. But it’s also an entertaining riot of gleeful joy and youthful energy. Daft but smart, traditional though strange with it, shaggy n’ scruffy, simple yet poignant, laugh-out-loud funny and hip but reassuringly dorky. Rock ‘n’ roll, in rude health then.