Jagjaguwar’s release of Foxygen’s Take the Kids Off Broadway last year introduced audiences to a duo of psych-pop revivalists that made it their mission to cram as many influences as they could into one album. Although fuzzy and unkempt, it was a laudable endeavor. On We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, Foxygen continue their shtick, but this time around it is much more polished. Crammed-full of familiar melodies and elements of superstars from the ’60s and ’70s – with famed multil-instrumentalist Richard Swift producing – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic is a full-bodied album that is far away from the lo-fi world of their debut. From Sgt. Peppered album opener “In the Darkness” and “Oh No 2,” to the Dylanisms scattered across “No Destruction” to Bowie, Lou Reed (in the Velvet Underground days), and all eras of Mick Jagger – especially on the title track – Foxygen are appreciative of the sound that defines them, and they do their upmost not to mimic, but to pay tribute.
There have been plenty of bands that would fall into the realm of reconstruction, but Foxygen spans two decades of past musical high notes, quite the accomplishment for a band that have been recording under their current name since the age of fifteen. Countless bands before Foxygen have dabbled with quick change and cosmic patchworks of older influences, but few have succeeded in crafting songs as moving and catchy as these. The thick accents and psychedelic swirl of “San Francisco” walk the line of being patronizingly nostalgic until the hook-heavy chorus comes in. Singer Sam France is a nostalgic virtuoso, who can not only throw his voice into any era, but can do so while always maintaining the flow of the song. Foxygen are in complete songwriting control.
We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic is a beautiful, non-stop convergence of ideas, some borrowed, some original, some revised, and some outright plagiarized. In the end, however, the album’s coherence comes in its incredible architecture of all these ideas, and the way the band sells them with a carefree, fun-loving attitude. France and bandmate Jonathan Rado give it everything they’ve got, taking a project that could have very well ended in disaster and allowed their nostalgic hearts to fully grasp the predecessors that shaped them, creating a delightfully frantic, yet playful ode to the yesteryears.