The Big Issue : Edition 529
MUSIC 40 THEBIGISSUE27JAN–9FEB2017 “Pastiche artists par excellence” is a backhanded compliment, but that’s the (faint) praise Foxygen merit. Since 2012’s Take the Kids Off Broadway, which played like someone flicking through an AM radio dial, the Los Angeles duo have made like mad magpies, cherry-picking bits – and sometimes just lifting riffs – from British Invasion rock, Motown pop and psychedelic soul. Jonathan Rado and Sam France are firmly of the internet era, cramming hyperactive songs with manifold ideas. What’s served them well is their ambition: ... And Star Power (2014) was a ridiculous double album, and now Hang employs strings, woodwind and brass to evoke 70s-singer-songwriters. There are references, both implicit and explicit, to Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, Van Dyke Parks and Elton John. Their appropriation – ‘Avalon’ borrows its title from Roxy Music and its chorus melody from ABBA’s ‘Waterloo’ – is shameless and audacious, but those qualities can serve a rock’n’roll record well. ANTHONY CAREW HANG FOXYGEN With their third album, Canadian electronic band Austra offer hope and optimism to our anxious political time. Celebrating the importance of art in understanding and shaping our “future politics”, they marry dance beats to bold anthemic lyrics (“There’s nothing I wouldn’t do”) to establish a resilient, empowered feel. Lead single ‘Utopia’ has a dreamy quality that’s complemented by its energising, uplifting lyrics. Though a little more subdued, the title track is still impassioned, calling for a visionar y utopia of tomorrow built around creativity. A variety of sounds blend together across the album, most particularly lead singer Katie Stelmanis’ angelic voice mingling with beautiful harmonies to evoke a sadness that really captures the current unease. ‘We Were Alive’ carries these same sentiments, but with an intense sound that rallies more closely with ‘Utopia’. Technologically progressive with a positive attitude, Future Politics is a strong – and much needed – musical antidote to the prevailing angst of today. NATHAN SMITH FUTURE POLITICS AUSTRA THE FIRST TIME I really fell in love with a record – playing it over and over until the tape (yes, tape!) wore so thin it eventually snapped – was the summer of 1996. The album was Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? Raised in a home where The Beatles were on heavy rotation, Noel Gallagher’s 60s pop reimaginings seemed ready-made for 11-year- old me. A Christmas gift from Santa, Morning Glory stayed jammed in my Walkman for the entire holidays. During those few months that bridged primary and high school, games of hide-and-seek would eventually give way to seemingly endless conversations about boys, all soundtracked by Liam Gallagher’s distinctive whine. That the album was written by a bunch of twenty-something Mancunians, high on the excesses of rock’n’roll, mattered little. In my mind it perfectly articulated the struggles I faced as a not-quite teenage girl stuck in Australian suburbia. I would eventually snub Oasis in favour of what I considered to be far more “mature” sounds: The Stooges, PJ Harvey, anything dark and brooding. But music has a funny way of sticking with you, even in the face of glib adolescent rejection. Now, all these years later, I love to spend my summer revisiting old favourites – each record bringing with it visceral memories of fleeting friendships and awkward crushes. But none of them quite makes my stomach flip like (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? The record that started it all. SARAH SMITH > Music Editor Japandroids’ third album opens with its title track, an overearnest pop-rock anthem that ticks all the most generic boxes: chanting gang vocals, painfully rebellious lyrics, dramatic breakdown. The tropes continue on ‘True Love and a Life of Free Will’, a white-bread country ballad disguised as a rock song. ‘I’m Sorry for Not Finding You Sooner’ is a mawkish ode to a lover, drowned in unnecessarily distorted vocals. The closing ‘In a Body Like a Grave’ has all the epic grandiosity of safe arena rock, echoing the sound that saw Green Day graduate from pop-punk misfits to chart-topping rockers. Near to the Wild Heart of Life is littered with lyrical pastiche that’s further highlighted by the predictable framework upon which the album is built. There’s no denying the energy, hooks or musicianship of Japandroids, but their heart-on-sleeve celebration of youth culture now feels juvenile at best. KRYSTAL MAYNARD NEAR TO THE WILD HEART OF LIFE JAPANDROIDS CD DOWNLOAD VINYL WHAT’S THE JOHN DORY?