#9 – FOXY SHAZAM – GONZO [spotify]
(feat. track – “Tragic Thrill” [spotify])
Way back in 2010, Foxy Shazam’s self-titled album ranked as my #1 album of the year, an album I characterized as “a celebration of the gloriously-over-the-top,” combining “Queen, Meatloaf, 70’s arena rock, 50’s rock-n-roll, a smidge of 80’s synthpop and blue-eyed soul, a drip of gospel, [and ]the slimmest remnants of chaotic post-hardcore” into something “so wildly original that only the most hyperbolic statements even begin to capture its essence.”
That’s a hard thing to follow up. The band’s 2012 release, Church Of Rock and Roll, made the classic mistake of attempting to recapture the magic. The album wound up being nothing so much as a weak caricature; the sequel to the self-titled’s impossibly out-sized ambition, either failing to reach such heights or, worse, reaching them but in a way that felt clown-like, more garish than gigantic.
GONZO reverses course entirely; the band scraps all pretense of production, writes a series of songs with smaller, uglier ambitions, books studio time with infamously barebones producer recordist Steve Albini, and launches the resulting composition into the world with no warning and little fanfare. It’s an approach that ultimately felt self-defeating; and yet, nothing could be more appropriate for this little album that couldn’t. GONZO is a chronicle of being beaten up and beaten down, a product of fear and exhaustion and not a little desperation. As frontman Eric Nally revealed to me in an interview, GONZO is a concept record revolving around his father’s struggles with sanity, a struggle his father has slowly lost; for Nally’s part, it sounds as if it was written and composed by a man fearing for his own mind.
The result…isn’t great. Or rather, it is great despite the fact that It isn’t even good, at parts. And yet, those gnarls, those bits of shoddy craftsmanship, lack of care, the odd choices, the paranoia: all of them add up to a harrowing picture of a man at war with some seriously nasty demons. When the songs do work – like on the hard-charging, bass heavy rave-up “Brutal Truth” – they hit like a hammer; when they don’t, like on the plodding “Have The Fun” and “In This Life,” they bellyflop with just as much violence. It isn’t pretty, but life doesn’t seem to pretty for Nally either, not right now. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.
Nally concluded our interview with the assertion that “there’s no way that anything could go wrong now, because we’re in charge. We’re beholden to no one. Foxy Shazam is its own thing, and I feel like we’re just… We exist. And there’s no denying that. We’re here to stay, and we’ll be here forever.” Six months later Foxy Shazam disbanded (ostensibly temporarily) without explanation.