Foxy Shazam – The Church of Rock and Roll

Posted: February 26, 2012 in Music

Every once in a blue moon a band or – more specifically – an album comes around that defies the modern sound, throws away the rule book, and stands out like a stripper in a monastery.

When the planets align like this, music fans are usually treated to something so amazing and different that it redefines the scene as a whole – and that’s exactly what we have in Foxy Shazam’s fourth album “The Church of Rock and Roll.”

But being the goofy-looking duck in a lake of swans has been the way of life for these Cincinnati, Ohio natives since they strapped on their guitars in 2004. In fact, when they broke through in 2008 with their spine-tingling effort Introducing Foxy Shazam, the “edge” of alternative was Bon Iver, The Killers and Vampire Weekend – none of which could hold a candle to the quirkiness and flamboyancy of ringmaster Eric Sean Nally and crew. If The Strokes carried the “coolness” of Shaft, Foxy Shazam was Dolemite – with a rougher edge and deeper level of hip.

And that trend continues with The Church of Rock and Roll. This time around, the band has created a revivalist masterpiece of good old-fashioned rock and roll, paying homage (loosely) to some of the most legendary acts of our time.

The album opens with “Welcome To The Church Of Rock And Roll,” a sledgehammer of a track that has Nally laying the swagger on thick. The gospel-esque choir behind him builds a thick vocal wall, and the sweat practically drips from the guitars. Throw in a trumpet, and the end result is a lot of noise that shouldn’t go well together but does.

“I like It” has the enigmatic frontman sliding into David Coverdale’s snakeskin pants and delivering a dirty, soulful track with what may be the album’s most controversial lyrics. A line like “That’s the biggest black ass I’ve ever seen and I like it.” would usually make the listener cringe, but here it’s delivered with such playfulness that you catch yourself singing right along.

You would think that – coupled with the album title – “Holy Touch” would be a religious song. It is, of sorts, but only as a tongue-in-cheek observation of modern-day faith healers. It’s impossible not to mention the similarities to Queen here, but considering Nally’s penchant for the grandiose – he’s not too far off the footsteps trenched by Freddie Mercury. It’s the type of track that not many have the balls to attempt, let alone do it this well.

“Last Chance At Love” has a strong Pat Benetar/Joan Jett feel to it with strong, simple chords and clap-along tempo. It’s definitely a throwback, but that takes nothing away from it’s fun, energetic vibe.

Things take on a bit more serious tone with “Forever Together”, which halts a lot of the momentum the first few tracks had built up. It’s a nice tune with a decent message, though – and gives the listener the opportunity to slow the heart rate and towel off a bit. That “slowness” continues in “(It’s) Too Late Baby,” a love song of sorts that slowly builds pace to a triumphant, chorus-laden finish that is actually one of the albums stronger tracks.

“I Wanna Be Yours” has a simple, backwoods intro that hints at the blues with it’s methodical guitar chords and simple snare – but Foxy pumps plenty of life into it with a fuzzy guitar solo from Loren Daniel Turner who really shines throughout the disc.

Another of the album’s true gems is “Wasted Feelings.” From Nally’s falsetto vocals to the Mick Jagger meets Tina Turner chorus, there isn’t a chord here that isn’t soulfully played out. Foxy Shazam is known for their outrageous live performances, and I can see this playing as easily on stage as it did through the speakers.

After the energy of the last track, a sludgy, greasier track was in order, and that’s the delivery in “The Temple.” The title borrows from the pseudo-religious theme, but the lyrics are far more serious than any shaman would care to recite. It’s about tolerance and acceptance (and the lack thereof) that actually had me ‘thinking’ for the first time through the listen. If you’re down with the message, you’ll be down with the song. I know I was.

After a bit of lyrical discomfort, the smiley-faces return for “The Streets.” The muffled trumpets, skat vocals and piano tickles brings up imagery of the big-city 40s sound (believe it). It’s a proud song of remembering who you are and where you came from, and while not really a “rock” song, it fits in perfect in this collection of uniqueness.

As a final homage to great music of the past, we get a track that could have easily been recorded by Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen instead of Foxy Shazam. “Freedom” has an almost folk feel to it, and turns the fun and games off for three and a half minutes to showcase the songwriting ability. It may be a bit too “normal” for longtime fans, but it’s different – and different is what this band lays their collective heads on.

I can’t say this album is for everyone, but it sure sounds like something with incredibly broad appeal. The diversity from track to track allows it the chance to hook almost any type of music fan – for at least a track or two. For me, the whole thing played out as an opus to art, the unexpected, and a damn good time.

The hipster/sheik appeal of these guys is bound to get washed off a bit by the waves of success this album will have, but I doubt very much it’s going to keep Foxy Shazam from reinventing themselves over and over – for it’s what they do – and they do it better than anyone else.

9/10

Tracklist:
01. Welcome To The Church Of Rock And Roll
02. I Like It
03. Holy Touch
04. Last Chance At Love
05. Forever Together
06. (It’s) Too Late Baby
07. I Wanna Be Yours
08. Wasted Feelings
09. The Temple
10. The Streets
11. Freedom

Buy It At: Amazon

MySpace: Link | Wiki: Link

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