The opening track of Foxy Shazam's
eponymous third album effectively sets the tone for the following 12 tracks; there's dogs, followed by a full gospel choir barking, Eric Sean Nally howling and posturing away and what sounds like a drum kit being chucked around. And while it's all good fun, and camp, and dramatic, after a whole album of this it all feels a little hollow.
Unsurprisingly for a band who has defiantly divided critical opinion since the first whisper of them on the internet, this latest offering reeks of polished self-assuredness. This is most apparent in Nally's lyrics; he swings between squaring up to his detractors on âWannabe Angelâ: â'All you hipsters say I'm gay/I'm not gay at allâ, to howling lustfully about uncomfortably young girls on 'Count Me Out': âShe was only 17/A few months shy, maybeâ, and confusingly but somewhat endearingly defending his fatherhood on âConnect Meâ: âYou donât like me/Itâs the fact that Iâm a dad.â It is refreshing to find a band who genuinely donât appear to take themselves too seriously, and actually enjoy their art rather than suffer for it.
Given Nally and his cohorts' penchant for flamboyant performances, both on record and live, it's no shock that the album's style feels a little rock opera, though perhaps more Hedwig and the Angry Inch than We Will Rock You. But where there feels like there should be some form of discernible narrative, some motive or explanation for these ostentatious songs, complete with powerful driving piano lines, full gospel harmony and Guns N' Roses-worthy screeching guitar solos, there is none, and as a result the album feels more showmanship than substance.
Nally is responsible for most of the showmanship, it must be said, and his vocals are invariably at the top of every mix. He's got a great set of pipes, there's no denying it, but five tracks in, I feel a little like I do watching X Factor auditions: âWhy do they have to project ALL THE TIME? Can't they just sing quietly and nice sometimes? It's almost like they're trying to hide something...â It's largely down to this that it doesn't feel like the tone of the album changes at all; from âIntro/Bombs Awayâ onwards the bar is raised, and kept there. My attention wandered a few tracks in, and it was only with great effort that I persevered with it to the end. âConnect Meâ provided brief respite, where the backing is stripped down to piano and drum machine, with the gospel choir just creeping in quietly round the edges; itâs a tribute to Nallyâs undeniable prowess as a songwriter that he can pull off an arrangement like this, and he does so with aplomb.
While I love 'Oh Lord', and have been singing it since I reviewed it as their first single from this album, I just can't warm to this as a full length piece. Perhaps Iâm just too cynical, perhaps after a summer of dreamy pop music I just want something moody and dark to crunch through leaves to, or perhaps Iâm just too old for this - either way, what starts as an entertaining drama queen of an album wears rather thin rather quickly.