Foxygen have the heart of the Rolling Stones in the bodies of millennials. While this formula led to success on last year's breakout LP, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic, there were also signs that they were torn between being smart pop composers and raucous youth making noise. Without an external producer, …And Star Power finds them still caught between the dichotomy, which ultimately makes for to a divisive record.
Wrapped in a bizarre sonic metanarrative about Foxygen joining and subsequently being taken over by a punk collective, the record highlights a true descent into overindulgent madness, but not before demonstrating a talented band crafting great tunes. The opening stretch from "How Can You Really" to "You & I" is wholly excellent, along with standout "What Are We Good For," thanks to a chorus of female backup vocalists, Jonathan Rado's punchy keyboards, daubs of soul, France's laidback, flowerchild vocals and a scant layer of warm analog fuzz. Beautifully wistful folk rocker "I Don't Have Anything/The Gate" and slick, jangling piano rocker "Cannibal Holocaust" round out the first LP with style and versatility, and a great album composed mostly of fantastic tracks, with a wee bit of comparative filler, could have ended there.
Unfortunately, the second disc, when the punk collective takes over the band, is where the album completely falls apart. The entire third side ("Cold Winter/Freedom" through "Talk") is a series of formless noise-punk tracks that offer little in the form of enjoyment. When a band smashes a guitar on stage, they're either rock and roll legends (to be) or poor facsimiles; on this side, Foxygen clearly tries to be the former, but instead invokes the latter, aiming for anarchy but forgetting to fight against something.
The two-track closing side, "Everyone Needs Love" and "Hang," return to the great balladry of the first LP, but the retro-rock isn't enough to cleanse the palate of the preceding noise. It's a shame, because hidden amongst the noisy filler is a lean record akin to their last two LPs. Foxygen need to be reined in, and fast; while they subverted expectations by not breaking up after all their perceived band drama last year, this new record still finds them wavering. By not taking a side, they fall flat in the middle. (Jagjaguwar)