Fresh Tunes – The People are Back

foster-the-people

Foster the People’s new album Supermodel has a lot going for it. As a follow-up to the band’s 2011 breakout debut Torches, it inevitably tries to avoid being labeled a “sophomore slump” by deviating from what what earned the band such instant notoriety: quirky, memorable lyrics and electronic hooks that serve well as pop rock tunes with enough substance to be called indie. Songs like “Helena Beat,” “Houdini” and of course the acclaimed single “Pumped Up Kicks” forced their way into the mainstream consciousness by embracing what made MGMT’s first three singles such staples of the alternative radio scene: have an upbeat, electronic hook, a sing-a-long chorus, and just enough reverb to make the odd lyrics indecipherable to a general audience.

foster-the-people-supermodel-410On Supermodel, Mark Foster and crew attempt to branch out from that success by asking “Are You What You Want to Be?” Yes, FTP are already disillusioned with the fame that took them only three years to obtain. And yet, Supermodel does a decent job of exploring themes of interpersonal relations and consumerism in the modern world. If only it didn’t sound so “meh”.

Let’s start with what they get right. Mark Foster said that the new album would be heavily influenced by bands like The Kinks and The Clash, and it shows. Mostly gone are the heavy, warm synths found on Torches, replaced by a solid rock sound that still manages to sound substantial. There are even subtle African influences in places, which make the percussion stand out in particular. Mark Foster’s vocal abilities have also received a slight upgrade. He shows off a mellow croon on “Fire Escape,” and teases a welcome angst on “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon”. He even goes into full ballad mode on the short interlude “The Angelic Welcome of Mr. Jones”, which is nice but ultimately unnecessary. Foster limits himself too much to the typical falsetto “oohs” and “do do doos” to really call this record an evolution. More like a slow crawl in the right direction.

This is where the bulk of Supermodel’s issues arise. Rather than taking a step forward musically, Foster the People have simply shuffled to the side. Songs are often jumbled and overly busy, lacking the focus of their previous efforts. “Nevermind” and “Goats In Trees” are immediately forgettable, while others like “Pseudologia Fantastica” balance on the cusp of brilliance without ever taking the plunge. True to concept, Supermodel focuses largely on the pitfalls of fame and living the #selfie life. And yet, few songs actually succeed in being meaningful and interesting at the same time. Ideas of media consumption, bad acid trips and self-discovery are floating around here somewhere, but end up being too generic and preachy to be of much interest. These songs desperately crave to be the kind of social commentary that last year’s Arcade Fire and Lorde records were doing with relative ease. “Coming of Age” just doesn’t mean much coming from a guy who wrote commercial jingles just a few years ago.

There are some solid songs on Supermodel. Coming of Age” is a relatively tame alt-anthem, while “Pseudologia Fantastica” provides some decent thrills. The best song by far is “Best Friend,” which actually manages to groove pretty hard. One wonders what the album might have been if they had worked forward with that song’s charm in mind. Ultimately, Supermodel screams “rushed”. Few songs will have you coming back like “Pumped Up Kicks” did just two years ago. But really, the world is not lacking for bands like Foster the People. Empire of the Sun, Phoenix and Passion Pit would all gladly fill the hole left by MGMT’s early departure into psychedelic territory. In an age where fingers eagerly hover over the skip button, Foster the People could use some rest and a little peace of mind. And if you’re gonna pull a Kanye ego trip, you best have a Yeezus in your pocket.

Share

Throwback Thursday – January 1976

2175847-Sex-Pistols-sex-pistols-4058394-1280-747

The Sex Pistols played at Watford College in England on January 23, 1976. This would be the first of 65 gigs in the “Anarchy in the U.K.” tour of 1976. The tour would Feature the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Damned. This tour goes down in history as one of the shortest, yet most influential tours ever, due to the fact that half of the shows were canceled because of the reputation the three punk bands had gained. By the end of the tour, the three bands were banned from playing in many of the major cities and towns throughout the U.K. When the Sex Pistols returned home to London, punk had blown up and was the newest “kiddy fad.” The impact of the tour was felt across the U.K. and even in America as word spread that a filthy punk band from England was breaking down walls.

Sex Pistols

Sex Pistols

The “Anarchy in the U.K.” tour is viewed as the beginning of the Sex Pistols’s rise to fame, but also as the beginning of the end of the band. The tour included a memorable showcase gig held during London’s first punk festival, at the 100 Club in Oxford Street, which featured the band Siouxsie and the Banshies (staring future sex pistols bassist Sid Vicious) and the Sex Pistols would go on to sign with major label EMI. The band’s first single,”Anarchy in the U.K.” was released on  November 26, 1976 and served as a statement of angst, anger and youthful energy. By the time the song was released, the Sex Pistols were known to be obnoxious revolutionaries and their single only added to the reputation. The Sex Pistols would be dropped by EMI 30 days later and were picked up by A&M records almost immediately.

The behavior of the Sex Pistols brought them just as much national attention as their music. December 1, 1976 the band would create a storm of publicity during an early evening live broadcast of Thames Television’s “Today” program. The band was appearing as a last-minute replacement for Queen, and their entourage took full advantage of the green room facilities, consuming large amounts of alcohol and creating an overall ruckus. During the interview, lead singer Johnny Rotten created a stir by using the word “s–t” and “dirty sod” while host Bill Grundy, (who was drunk at the time) flirted openly with Siouxsie Sioux. Grundy encouraged the band to continue with the language telling them they had five seconds to say something outrageous. In classic Sex Pistols form, Jones called Grundy a “dirty old man,” “dirty bastard,” “dirty “f—–r” and a  “f—-n rotter.”

Even though the program was only broadcast in London, the public display of anger and violence occupied the tabloid newspapers for days. The Daily Mirror famously ran the headline ‘”The Filth and the Fury“, while the Daily Express led with “Punk? Call it Filthy Lucre.” Thames Television suspended Grundy, and though he was later reinstated, the interview effectively ended his career.

The interview resulted in a full blown media circus with newspapers reporting that the band spat on their fans, puked on fans and even had sex on stage. The band’s growing reputation would both attract and detour media and fans alike.

The Sex Pistols go down in history as one of the most influential bands of all time and the “Anarchy in the U.K.” tour will forever be recognized as one of the defining moments in punk music.Though the Sex Pistols only hand one album and were really only a band for two years, they have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Bands such as Guns N’ Roses, Rancid, Green Day, blink-182, and Motley Crue have openly admitted the Sex Pistols’s heavy influence in their own sound. The band’s unique individuality has carried on in virtually every field of music and their presence is felt in all different forms of rock.

Share