Before releasing their last album, 2014’s sprawling 24-song exercise in sloppy rock theatre ‘…And Star Power’, Foxygen keyboardist Jonathan Rado hadn’t time for standard- length records. “We just didn’t want to make an eight-song record; here’s more songs,” he told DIY magazine. Well, almost three years later, just look what the Californian so-and-sos (completed by singer Sam France, famed for toplessness, injuries and demented Jagger-on-heat gyrating) have done. They’ve made an eight-song album.
But don’t take this sumptuous fifth record – which marks Foxygen’s first proper studio effort and features a 40-piece orchestra on every track alongside contributions from Flaming Lips multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd and arrangements from Matthew E. White – as a step towards convention. ‘Hang’ may be crisp, clear and smooth, but Foxygen are still very much a force for chaos, the band nearly being derailed by drugs, fallouts and France’s broken leg in 2013. Like their four previous albums, ‘Hang’ is propelled by two principal forces – star-quality musicianship and the will to trespass beyond tradition. And, crucially, at a third of the size of its predecessor, it allows Rado and France – who wrote and produced every song – to fully focus. Rado’s keys are particularly outstanding.
Opener ‘Follow The Leader’ is a real pop nugget that swings like Foxygen classics ‘Shuggie’ and ‘How Can You Really’. Backing vocals, brass and a brilliant bassline coalesce under France’s vocals, which lurch from growling to snotty to sugar-sweet. Upbeat ode to utopia ‘Avalon’ makes sense of France telling music site Nothing But Hope And Passion that ‘Hang’ is Foxygen’s “Disney record”.Epic lead single ‘America’ supports that description further. Drums and strings could soundtrack a chase scene in Peter Pan, and the piano tinkles as if accompanying Belle dancing with the prince in Beauty And The Beast. France’s yelping is freaky: “Just another witch who comforts you when you’re dying / America!”Elsewhere, the dramatic gun-referencing ‘Mrs Adams’ has him “hanging from a rope”. But it’s not all so hi-octane. ‘On Lankershim’ and ‘Rise Up’ deploy Harry Nilsson-style licks and unpredictable flashes of guitar to keep Foxygen from straying too far towards pantomime. And that’s perhaps ‘Hang’’s biggest accomplishment – reeling Foxygen back in and refocusing them for a brilliant and unexpected return to form. Ben Homewood