Some time ago, my girlfriend put a Foxy Shazam album in my stereo. It was their self-released debut album, and I remember asking who it was doing such a poor impression of the Blood Brothers. Now, that may have been a bit unfair of me then, and it may be something of a copout to simply compare Foxy Shazam (formerly Foxy Shazam!) to the Blood Brothers, or anyone else for that matter, here. However, while listening to their second LP Introducing Foxy Shazam, one can’t help but think of all the different artists that Foxy Shazam are so brazenly clustering together in order to manufacture some sort of “original” sound.
Unfortunately, that’s really all that the band does: twist all of their ideas into some ugly tornado, have you play the spot the influence game, throw in some cheeky lyrics, lather, rinse, repeat. Now, that would all be well and good if only that cocksure, bratty attitude that this group brandishes so flippantly could be turned down about…oh, 30 notches or so. The truth is that, for all their artistic posturing and empty rhetoric, Foxy Shazam really don’t inspire much, if any, emotion one way or the other.
When a band presents this sort of “let’s throw all of this at the wall and see what sticks” method, it is marginally more difficult for a listener to connect with them on any substantial level. It’s not impossible, but difficult. While I don’t mean to overstate the bounds of Foxy Shazam’s “experimentation,” (they really aren’t all that off the wall, when it comes down to it), there is something to be said for the busy nature of their …sonic palette. That something is boring by way of overcompensation. It wouldn’t be anything in the way of a problem if the band had an identity of its own to touch base on first. This is the main problem with Introducing….
While I will admit that they certainly seem a bit more grounded, maybe even focused, this time around, there is still the murky problem concerning the dichotomy generally presented within Foxy Shazam’s central thesis. If they are to fuse all of these genres—purportedly punk, hardcore, pop and soul—their sound needs to be larger than themselves. Their sound would need to not only utilize the methods of each genre, but wield them like an axe that they’ve fashioned just for themselves. That doesn’t happen here. It doesn’t even come close. For the most part, it’s more like Foxy Shazam are all dressed up in big bro’s clothes, but are still sadly playing make-believe. They seem more interested in the appearance of their vastness than with the actual execution of it. To hear them put in the same league as other truly inventive artists such as Man Man or Gogol Bordello is irresponsible at best and maddening at worst.
During the first act of Introducing…, the band makes sure to come out swinging. There isn’t much in the way of substance, but structurally that was the smartest thing Foxy could do. From “Introducing Foxy” to “A Dangerous Man” you get a fairly strong idea of what the band is proposing. There are thrashing breakdowns, mostly superfluous piano melodies (hinting at all that soul they’re talking about, I guess), episodic time changes, and singer Eric Nally dabbling in clever lyrical work with a vocal range that shifts from bruising vibrato to shrieking eel whenever he feels like it. This is all a bit deliberately dizzying, if not marginally annoying, but admittedly fun. You get the sense that with some slightly different direction, Foxy Shazam could be an entertaining rock group with a somewhat askew idea of what pop should be. They have the big ideas. They just appear to lack the follow-through. This issue becomes more evident within the LP’s final two acts.
Despite the now-infamous pining of front man Nally “really” wishing he was black, there’s not all that much of note throughout the rest of the album. For all of their myriad influences, the well runs dry surprisingly quickly onIntroducing… Foxy’s neo-soul leanings and punk hook proclivities tend to get a tad old hat as the album trudges along. This leaves the listener with little to do other than listen to Nally attempt to be funny and/or interesting through his lyrical mazes, only hitting his mark about half of the time.
While I would no longer write Foxy Shazam off as some sort of Blood Brothers knock-off group (I was way off), they still have a long way to go before they show me that they have an identity worthy of their reputation. I’ve been told that I really need to see them live in order to truly appreciate what they do. That may be fair, but don’t I need to be compelled to do so first? If Introducing… is supposed to achieve this, then I’m sorry to say that we can add that to the list of the album’s many failures as well.
// Notes from the Road
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