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Foxygen’s debut EP, Take the Kids Off Broadway, sounded like a record collectors fever dream. It was an anachronistic rush through blues, folk and British invasion music. With the help of Richard Swift, the duo presented their scatterbrain ideas with a showy overblown production that seemed to simulate several records playing at the same time. With nine songs and a playtime of 36 minutes and 39 seconds, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, their debut album, is only a touch longer than the kaleidoscopic EP, but the move to the LP tag seems to be more about maturity than length. Jonathan Rado and Sam France have settled their frantic minds, and have concentrated and become more judicious with their use of influences. It makes for a more singular record, and they save different styles for different songs, rather than throwing them around wildly.

The returning Richard Swift provides a more cohesive and lucid production, but it’s still thrillingly overwrought in places. Such as “In the Darkness” with its Sgt. Pepper’s horns and piped in crowd noise making it feel more like a transition than an opener. But it works, and shows Foxygen haven’t lost their disjointed charm. “No Destruction” plods along with poetic no-nonsense lyrics: “There’s no need to be an asshole you’re not in Brooklyn anymore.” France sings them with a Bob Dylan-like inflection in his voice, a comparison that becomes undeniable when a harmonica sounds in. France’s voices cracks as he throws himself into the “someone who smokes pot in the subway / pot in the subway with me” line as the organ swells and shifts.

The similarly geography obsessed “San Francisco” has a sweet and warm vocal hook, and a delicate lead is sung over music box keys. The gorgeous refrain of “I left my love in San Francisco / That’s OK, I was bored anyway” becomes a subtle duet as the second line is sung beautifully by a female vocalist. They experiment with similar call and response vocals during “On Blue Mountain”. Which starts as soul song with a snappy drumbeat, but a liquid vocal hook starts a frenzied rock and roll descent as a choir shouts France’s lyrics back at him.

Lead single “Shuggie” is packed with a synth intro, piano keys, string sections, funk jam asides and crashing gospel choruses. It’s almost as perfect a showcase for their unbelievable production as the rich bass sound of “Oh Yeah”. The powerhouse bass grooves propel the song through an infectious shuffle and high harmonies, and a shout of “Freakout!” is answered by a flurrying guitar solo. The swagger flashing title track sees Foxygen at their most unhinged, a hiccupping vocal lead loses its mind as the song falls apart into a hard rocking fury. It has the same loud handclaps and violent energy as The Stooges’ “Shake Appeal”, and its effect resonate throughout “Oh No 2” as France slowly comes down during psychedelic vocal harmonies. The closer builds to a loud crescendo as it borrows the dramatic piano chords from “A Day in the Life”, but it ends with a brief and sweet piano verse from France that is more akin to “Her Majesty”.

We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic feels more like a real debut for Foxygen, there are more actual songs on it, rather than the thrilling, extravagant messes found on the essential Take the Kids Off Broadway. Its cover art and sound both feel distinctly less homemade, and it gives you a clearer sense of the type of band that Foxygen are, and want to be. You can see an exciting maturity developing in their songwriting, but it doesn’t stop them from tearing rock and roll apart with their youthful energy.

5/5

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