Some people find religion early, some later in life; some don’t find it at all, and some find it in jail. Regardless of your relative piety, Foxy Shazam’s new album, The Church of Rock and Roll will redefine how you think about either church or modern music, or very possibly both. Full review after the drop!
Setting the atmosphere with a pounding, defiant rock anthem, Foxy Shazam makes no concessions to trends of radio-friendly pop. Lead singer Eric Nally’s distinctive, somewhat Mercurial (as in the singer from Queen, not the Greek god) vocals reach for the towering church ceiling. After our introduction to the album in the aptly named “Welcome to the Church of Rock and Roll,” guitarist Loren Turner launches into the hard rocker “I Like It,” a raunchy and unabashedly forceful tune about Nally’s fixation on certain elements of a woman he admires. Drums pound as guitar shreds, all the while as trumpet howls creating a mix no other band quite recreates today. If for nothing but the novel lyrics and juxtaposition of cultures, the song is definitely worth a listen.
I imagine Foxy Shazam traveled back to the 80’s and encapsulated the greatest elements of that era’s rock music. One listen to “Holy Touch” and “Last Chance at Love” will push whatever you’re thinking about right out of your head. The space created there will be immediately filled with the catchiness and simple brilliance of the songs’ melodies. Nally carries the songs effortlessly, and exercises restraint with his vocals so that when the hooks hit, you’re really hooked. Think goldfish vs. professional fisherman. These aren’t 80’s reminiscent copouts; Foxy Shazam refuses convention. Imbuing the rock ballads with horns that unique Foxy sound makes the songs stand out.
A move both uncharacteristic and totally typical at the same time, Foxy Shazam slows down for a couple minutes with the next tracks. Uncharacteristic only because the songs are slow, and typical because Nally and the gang take chances. It’s not a surprise that the songs, in their uncharted territory, will make longtime fans applaud the change in pace; new listeners will simply appreciate the consistently satisfying melodies and instrumentation. “Forever Together” is an emotional ballad deep from somewhere in Nally’s psyche, and allows the album to fade just a bit, which makes the following track hit that much harder. “(It’s) Too Late Baby” crescendos to create an entirely new atmosphere for the album, bringing us ever deeper into the heart of the Church of Rock and Roll.
“I Wanna Be Yours” tells a quintessential rock story: the alpha won’t be satisfied until he has you, his one and only. Lyrically nothing spectacularly, the song is a solid cut, but doesn’t push any boundaries; its focus on overdriven guitar (with a killer solo) is admirable, however.
Following that slight dip in entertainment is the poppiest song on the album “Wasted Feelings.” Falsetto speed-singing and a just a touch of scatting solidify Eric Nally as one of this generation’s most talented and unique singers. Nothing about the song is anything less than addicting. From the backing guitar to the varied and interesting vocals, and again over to the horns, the song is a powerhouse.
The single lackluster track on the album is the musically uninspired “The Temple.” Though it might be perfect for contemporary alternative radio, the song just rocks too hard and comes off as a little insincere, almost as if Foxy may have thought the Church wasn’t jamming loudly enough. Passable, the song is merely a small piece of filler.
Foxy kicks the album back into gear with soulful anthem “The Streets.” Complete with a choir and brass with a very Louisianan inflection, Foxy shows its Gulf sensibilities without shame or inhibition. Harmonies and trumpet shine in a display that very well could have finished the album, but Foxy has a final word before departing.
“Freedom” builds ever so slowly for about a minute, and Nally lets loose vocals that will chill you, not unlike when religious singers transcend their own music and start pulling their performance from their soul. The listener will hear Nally’s very life in his singing; the man loves his music. An emotional guitar solo coupled with a choir’s harmonies legitimize the idea that this is something of a church.
The Church of Rock and Roll can be a transcendental experience if you allow it. Foxy Shazam again created an album that bleeds with their emotion and dedication. A shining example of harder, alternative, and even glam rock (with a little soul thrown in), The Church is someplace I’ll be visiting at least once a week.
— Josh Rice
Even if you’re not a religious person, you can worship WVUM or Foxy Shazam over at 90.5 FM.