Foxy Shazam


Written by: TL on 30/04/2014 00:01:55

Since emerging on Ferret as the quirky kids that just couldn't be pidgeonholed back with 08's label debut "Introducing Foxy Shazam", the Cincinatti sextet named as such initially waxed with 10's self-titled and then seemingly waned slightly with 12's "The Church Of Rock And Roll", but to those turned on to the band's acquired taste, none of the records they put out post their self-released debut "The Flamingo Trigger" (which admittedly, I haven't heard yet) have failed to deliver what the band does best: Madly flamboyant rock'n'roll that pays heed to the virtues of old and especially the camp, rebellious poses of the glam rock tradition, positioning it all in an unmistakably current light.

It's unusually un-theatrical for Foxy then, when their newest record "Gonzo" has arrived quietly and suddenly as a free release on bandcamp, void entirely of the production tricks of the now and recorded instead in minimalist fashion, all band members playing live in one room in the company of producer Steve Albini. The result is impressive then, especially if you appreciate old virtues in musicianship and audio recording, because Foxy sound tight as ever and the instruments come through clearly and evenly. If you're hoping for the grandeur and bombast of the previous couple of records though you're out of luck, because without production tricks "Gonzo" inevitably sounds a bit like a demo compared to its predecessors.

So if the band wanted to strike a blow for an old code, I'm not sure the damage isn't collateral, for while the interest lost across the length of "Gonzo" could also merely be a result of declining songwriting, the sudden slimming of the aesthetic is so distracting that it's hard to tell. The title track starts out nicely with the interplay between brazen guitar riff, trumpet licks and deeper organ keys being as potent as ever, and with singer Eric Nally's proclamation that "A hero is a thing the Foo Fighters sing about" sounding as odd and striking as anticipated. Already on the following "Poem Pathetic" however, parts of his are so shrill early on that they counteract the catchy funk and the nice descent across the middle.

"Gonzo" thus quickly becomes a bit grating on the ears, the way a record can only become when it actually has plenty of hooks but when their impact on you is catchy but at the same time sort of tiresome. "Have The Fun" is thus almost annoyingly brazen with the way the guitar and horns blow raspberries at the listener while Nally wails hysterically on top and its prior "Brutal Truth" feels like a disappointingly pedestrian and straightforward effort considering its parent band. Where are the refrains that are unforgettable on first listen, like those of "Rocketeer", "Red Cape Diver", "Wannabe Angel" or "I Like It"? Sadly they shine only in their absence, as does the 'Shazam' about Foxy, who only prove to me with "Gonzo" that their overall quality is contingent on being somewhere over the top where a minimalist recording and their current songwriting can't take them. So while some will inevitably praise the band for this as an accomplishment, I just don't think basic is a gimmick that suits Foxy Shazam at all, and consequently I welcome the past tense of closer "Story Told" ever so much when it eventually heralds the end of this album.


Download: Gonzo, Poem Pathetic, Tragic Thrill
For The Fans Of: The Darkness, Queen, Meat Loaf

Release date 02.04.2014

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