Album Review: Foster The People - 'Torches'

Polished indie-electro it may be, but it sure is catchy…

Ah, the good ol’ indie crossover albatross. ‘Young Folks’, ‘Kids’, ‘Paris’, ‘Paper Planes’… you can surely add Foster The People[a/]’s ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ to that list now. You know the score: artist writes (undeniably brilliant) pop song, makes it catchy as hell, but quirky enough for the ‘cool’ crowd, song subsequently gets some big pimping from every blog/radio station/Hype Machine user on the planet and, seemingly overnight, becomes utterly, irritatingly inescapable. You’re in the office, you hear it on Joe Bloggs FM. You’re in the club, the DJ drops the [a]Jamie xx remix.

You’re on the toilet… you get the picture. Great for the band, though, right? Yay and nay, actually, because before you know it you’re 2011’s MGMT, and now it’s time to write another banger… and another… and another. Of course, because of your millions of YouTube views (‘Pumped Up Kicks’ has racked up 3,486,187 at the time of writing), your major label paymasters who, on account of said buzz, have snapped you up and put you in the studio with some rather costly super-producers (Messrs Epworth, Costey, Kurstin and Hoffer certainly don’t come cheap these days), would like it very much indeed if you could (read: will hire angry bailiffs to take your swish new flat apart, piece-by-piece, if you don’t) repeat the feat another nine or 10 times.

Hello there, debut album! Over the course of ‘Torches’, the Los Angeles trio don’t quite manage that, but they’re not ready to be filed alongside Peter, Bjorn and John just yet either. There are several other tracks here that could easily soundtrack your summer… if you can get over the fact singer Mark Foster sounds a bit like the guy from Maroon 5. This isn’t an insurmountable burden, though, as hits-in-waiting ‘Color On The Walls (Don’t Stop)’ – which comes on like ‘Thirteen Tales…’-era The Dandy Warhols, with some whooping Supergrass harmonies thrown in for good measure – and Justice-tinged opener ‘Houdini’ both possess melodies so catchy they could probably be delivered by Crazy Frog and still have you reaching for the repeat button.

There’s no escaping it: Foster The People are a great pop band, and ‘Torches’’ pop production accentuates every handclap and harmony for maximum effect. That said, it can get a little too much in places – slushy dance-ballad ‘I Would Do Anything For You’ (chorus: “Ooh la la/I’m falling in love/And it’s better this time/Than ever before”) doesn’t just overegg the pudding, it empties every womb in the battery farm onto it, while the repetitive melody of ‘Life On The Nickel’ recalls ’90s euro-pop also-rans Alex Party, and their big hit ‘Don’t Give Me Your Life’. Look it up on YouTube, kids – right after you’ve given ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ its second or third spin of the day.

Rob Webb

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