By Foxy Shazam
If you're not already familiar with Foxy Shazam, then the opening moments of 'Intro / Bombs Away' will have you hovering over the 'stop' button, as the band decide that the best way to open an album is by imitating dogs barking, and then incorporate that into the song as backing vocals. You'll be wondering what you've let yourself in for, up until the point 'Intro / Bombs Away' bursts into a technicolour riot of screaming horns, high-octane guitars and jigging keyboards, topped off with Eric Nally's unique falsetto - at which point you'll be having too much fun to wonder what you've let yourself in for.
Foxy Shazam are one of those rare combinations of crazed music and larger-than-life vocals, where both duly crank it up to eleven and no-one gets drowned out. Highlights are hard to single out on an album that's consistently jaw-dropping, but 'Oh Lord' and 'Bye Bye Symphony' deserve special mention.
Even on an album where sheer, euphoria inducing rock and roll anthems come thick and fast, previous single 'Oh Lord' still manages to stand out. This is raucous rock and rock where every nook and cranny is packed with wailing brass, but more importantly it's played with a fun-loving flourish, and is no stranger to yammered "yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah!"s and handclaps. 'Bye Bye Symphony' starts out a little differently, treading the lighters-in-the-air, arena rock ballad route. However, that tongue-in-cheek humour still sneaks through, as Nally blasts out the chorus of "life's a bitch / but she's totally, totally do-able" with all the enthusiasm of a desperate, heart-wrenching ballad. But, 'Bye Bye Symphony' saves the best until last, pulling out all the stops and bounding into a theatrical ending that your average Broadway production would be envious of.
'Wanna-Be Angel,' 'Second Floor' and 'Unstoppable' continue the theme. Nally's oddly diva-esque intonation means you can imagine him making emphatic hand gestures left, right and centre, while laying down the vocals to this album. Even when Nally's filling the chorus with the song title repeated over and over again, Foxy Shazam still sound fiercely defiant - and euphoria seeps from every note, which is always a plus. Foxy Shazam are the sort of band who slap you around the lug-holes with jigging piano and celebratory brass sections, until you give in and join the party.
The major pitfall of an album that consistently hits the 10-out-of-10 mark, is that whenever the band deliver a song that's say, 9 and a half, it inevitably feels like a rude return to Earth. This is the case with 'Count Me Out' and 'Evil Thoughts,' which both factor out some of the jazz and soul influences and consequently aren't half as much fun. The more stripped-back verses of 'Count Me Out' lack that euphoria the listener has come to expect, while 'Evil Thoughts' is a piano-led slow-burner with a steady, charming melody that is sure to get your foot tapping, but both songs will inevitably be overlooked in favour of tracks like 'Oh Lord' and 'Bye Bye Symphony.'
Still, it's not until 'Connect' that Foxy Shazam really drop the ball. The slicker production and finger-clicking beats feel overly artificial, leaching away the soulfulness of the brass section and Nally's flamboyant vocals. To make matters worse, Nally is swamped by un-needed backing vocalists who are layered so heavily, they threaten to drown him out. Perhaps Foxy Shazam were attempting to add an extra dimension to this album, but 'Connect' isn't the way to do it. Thankfully, their other deviations from the Foxy Shazam norm - 'The Only Way To My Heart' and 'Killin' It' - are more successful. The former reeks of sleazy jazz clubs, as Foxy Shazam swap their usual exuberance for a dark tumble of guitars and bass, shot through with some seedy, slithering brass notes. This is the sound of Foxy Shazam taking everything that made them great, and exploring its dark underbelly. In contrast, 'Killin' It' opts for introducing disco drums, creating a quirky, danceable number that's destined for indie-club dancefloors. This is the most mainstream song the album has to offer - and it still sounds great.
Foxy Shazam's self-titled third album is a bombastic, ludicrously over-the-top feast for your ears. At times it verges on silliness, but Nally's oddly soulful screech is charismatic, and the brass section give this album a soulful warmth. The lyrics leave something to be desired, with choruses made up of the song title repeated over and over again being a definite theme but, for those who like their music loud, brazen and above all fun, this album is a must-hear.