Meet Foxygen: the byproduct of Neil Young’s haphazardness, Mick Jagger’s lewdness and Brian Eno’s abstractness.
Few modern projects culminated from rock ‘n’ roll’s roots sound as immediate as Foxygen’s fourth studio album, “…And Star Power.” Clocking in at an ambitious 80 minutes, it laments the band as a prominent garage rock act like The White Stripes’ and MGMT’s breakthrough albums did years prior.
“…And Star Power” exhibits no direction and never hints at what comes next on its ever-shifting track list. The intro, “Star Power Airlines,” and its Jack White-esque, precision-pumped chords should send the album into a more psychedelic ode to punk rock.
But it doesn’t. And “How Can You Really,” the project’s second track and first single, pushes the concept of rock as an all-encompassing genre to levels unheard since Jagger and The Rolling Stones.
In 1978’s “Miss You,” Jagger pranced through disco, pop and R&B motifs, pushing guitar music past its old confinement. With “How Can You Really,” Foxygen and lead singer Sam France bolster garage rock similarly with trumpets and synths from pop and intricate string arrangements.
Yes, unlike Foxygen’s past releases, “…And Star Power’s” singles feature popular appeal.
“Cosmic Vibrations” balances all the album’s qualities: social commentary, sarcastic lyrics and loathsome beats. The track’s beginning lambasts guitars and drum kicks against constant howling — cat meows included. Ballad qualities set in 15 seconds from the start, though, and France croons over acoustic chords and occasional keyboard riffs.
France sings with repetition and simple phrases. Throughout “…And Star Power,” Foxygen never drifts too far from what echoes simply and clearly. After “Cosmic Vibration’s” simple basis, however, the experimentation resounds, particularly with tracks six through nine, the “Star Power” section.
Most artists who use similar song titles to add distinction in an album create great coherency to tie the selection together. That’s not the case here.
“Star Power I: Overture” is a goofy, organic instrumental; “Star Power II: Star Power Nite” includes surfer rock bass along France’s best Jagger impersonation. And “Star Power III: What Are We Good For” and “Star Power IV: Ooh Ooh,” well, do nothing to build upon the songs that precede them.
Foxygen’s lack of direction over “…And Star Power’s” course represents both its largest strength and ailment. Listeners who can enjoy the random journey should dig this project; those searching for a collection with recurrent themes will get lost in the midst of France’s shrieking, spontaneous background noise and one-minute tracks.
“How Can You Really,” “Cosmic Vibrations” and the “Star Power” section hold enough sounds and styles for an entire album. But as the album is 24 songs long, those only make up its first 30 minutes.
“I Don’t Have Anything/The Gate” sounds as lonely as its name. If any song represents even a portion of Foxygen’s creative process with “…And Star Power” (a daunting task because of the aforementioned disjointed structure), it’s this one.
As with past Foxygen tracks like “No Destruction” and “San Francisco,” the lyrics all sound like the punch line to a 40-year-old inside joke, and from the frantic strums to random piano keys, nothing sounds rehearsed. Tracks like “I Don’t Have Anything/The Gate” make the album’s recording sessions sound like a melancholy, spiritual get-together commemorating a long-lost friend.
You might hear a Foxygen track on the radio this fall, and although band members won’t admit it, that’s an accomplishment. “…And Star Power” exhibits the band at both its most versatile and accessible.
Final Rating: Four out of Five Suns