Jello Biafra sang about the hippies never coming back at the close of the 1970s – Foxygen are yet another example of just how wrong punk was about the fate of their forerunners. Produced by Richard Swift, the California duo has more than a touch of the Velvet Underground about them, ‘No Destruction’ mimics Lou Reed’s vocal delivery while a John Cale drone carries ‘Bowling Trophies’. The lead single ‘Shuggie’ starts off as frosty and cold as anything on Nico’s Chelsea Girls, but it’s the psychedelic signifiers on We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic that nevertheless carry the day. On ‘San Francisco’ the duo’s boy/girl voices trade the lines “I left my love in San Francisco/ I was bored in L.A.” adding a touch of punk ennui to undercut the songs’ dominant feelings of sunshine and rainbows. Elsewhere, ‘Oh Yeah’ sounds like something that would happen if Mick Jagger fronted an early incarnation of the Jackson Five. As this follows hot on the heels of the funky bassline from ‘Shuggie’, the two songs temporarily transform We Are… into the soundtrack for a 1960s love den.
“The 21st century’s gonna kick your ass” the band sings and warbles on the title track. It’s more menacing than one would expect from the flower children, sounding like something the Stooges’ might have coughed up on a Funhouse-era outtake, or perhaps a rumbling, ramshackle, garage rock ditty courtesy of the Cramps on a good day. The album closes out with the sprawling ‘Oh No’, a spaced-out dirge reminiscent of Jason Pierce’s similarly expansive gospel-laced Spiritualized.
Delightfully raw and rough-edged, Foxygen prove that there’s still plenty of life left in 1960s nostalgia.