We Are the 21st Century
Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
Jagjaguwar, January 22 2013
Reviewed by Jon Howard
Less than a month into the new year (happy Apocalypse, by the way) and we have already been given a record that will either act as a prelude to an entire year of incredible music or will be the one album that has raised the bar so high and so early in the year that the remainder of 2013’s music will just pale in comparison to it. Foxygen’s new album We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic is a charmingly bizarre trip through the best musical styles of the 1960s and 1970s, dabbling in psychedelic rock, folk rock, Motown, glam rock, and more.
By far the most prevalent style on the record, psychedelic rock makes up over half of the songs, such as “In the Darkness”, the album’s processional opener with a pounding rhythm, as well as the albums highly orchestrated closing track “Oh No 2” which sounds almost as though it were an outtake from The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Other musical styles from the era come into play on the record as well. “Oh Yeah” is a homage to the earliest days of the Motown style, making quick transitions between funk, rhythm and blues, and soul, while “Shuggie” starts out as a horns-laden lounge song before throwing itself into early 1970s glam rock without so much as a warning. Conversely, “No Destruction” is a retro psychedelic folk anthem that calls Bob Dylan’s best works to mind, and “San Francisco” is a Summery song that will relax you with its mellow yet infectious melody and chorus.
The real standout track on the record is “On Blue Mountain”, a six-minute arrangement that flies through abrupt changes in tempo and style. The song reflects the free spirit of the band itself, refusing to stay in one place too long and just going in whatever direction it pleases. A somber hymn that sounds like it belongs in a cathedral one minute, a pounding Rolling Stones rock-out the next, this track takes the listener anywhere they’d want to go. The track contains Christian overtones that are found scattered across the entire album’s lyrics, yet Foxygen manages to make Christian references tactfully, without ever coming across as overbearing. The track is an opus that demands the attention of the listener, and simply refuses to let go until it has finished. Overall, We Are the Ambassadors of Peace and Love is an exhilarating trip through the musical styles of psychedelic rock’s golden years, managing to look back to the past without ever feeling dated. The album is not merely a reminiscence, it is a revival.
Recommended tracks: “No Destruction”, “On Blue Mountain”, “San Francisco”, “Shuggie”, “Oh No 2”