Monday, February 11, 2008

The Tripwire Reviews Foxy Shazam's "Introducing!"

huge thanks to the Tripwire staff!

Foxy Shazam
Release Date: 01.22.08 / Ferret Records

It's always dangerous to run too far amok from the pack when you're courting the teenage demographic, because while you want them to notice you, come out to your shows and wear your t-shirts, there's a certain "follow the heard" mentality that people in said age group tend to prescribe to, and usually, that means that the more you sound like the bands they already like, well, the better your odds are of conquering them...and their wallets. Fortunately for piano-powered Cincinnati quintet Foxy Shazam, they don't sound like anybody else currently stalking stages, but a notoriously bonzo live show and the fact that they're vaguely reminiscent of former heroes like Something Corporate and Ben Folds Five should be enough to draw the kids close enough to infect them with their intoxicating brand of swarthy pianemo that tosses off more nod-nods and wink-winks than an international espionage convention.

Their second album, the cheekily titled Introducing... is a true wolf in sheep's clothing; a smacktastic spazz-core record that seduces its audience with a slaughterhouse worth of unerringly tuneful hooks and vocal histrionics ripped straight from the playbooks of Bobby Conn and Freddie Mercury. Their skronky shtick isn't for everyone, and if you never had the Blood Brothers on constant rotation, tracks like "Red Cape Diver" and "Ghost Animals" will likely be too grating for you to stand, even with earplugs. But for those who like their pop delivered with heaping helpings of scuzz and subversion, then be prepared to meet your new favorite band.

Lead singer Eric Nally (aka Foxyman) is the band's secret weapon, his over-the-top persona, melodramatic flair for popular song and voice to melt/break glass is a lethal enough combo to put him in the running for this year's Brendan Urie. For proof, look no further than "The Rocketeer," which was almost certainly a Sondheim ditty in another life, its raucous piano rolls and cheery chorus elbowing out scaly guitar runs and eviscerating bass riffs for airspace, or "It's Hair Smelled Like Bonfire," which somehow finds him channeling Rob Halford and Richard Simmons, barking out death metal aerobics over a beat of elastic firecrackers, pounding ivory and guitars set to stun.

Occasionally delusions of grandeur get the better of them, and "The Science of Love" and "Ghost Animals" are prime examples of that fact, as both are overrun with mawkish sentiment and half-baked compositional ideas, never quite living up to their grand aspirations.

In the end, Introducing... is as memorable for its shortcomings as its triumphs, and while the band hasn't quite stumbled upon their magic formula for success (on record, anyway), they are at least blazing their own unique path through the neon-teen jungle, which, is more than can be said for most bands of their chosen ilk.