Foxy Shazam‘s 2010 self-titled LP was my favorite pop-punk release of the year [read my review], combining the best qualities of that genre with an unmistakable air of Freddie Mercury. Even though it so obviously drew upon Queen, Foxy Shazam seemed fresh, original, and exciting, relighting the spark of showmanship in rock and roll. When the band announced a new album barely a year and a half later, I felt my falsetto fetish returning, and the name — Welcome to the Church of Rock and Roll – suggested a touch of religious mockery that only served to enhance my excitement. But the songs simply don’t live up to the album’s narrative.
Where Foxy Shazam‘s lyrics were charismatic and unpredictable, many of the lyrics on Church are underwhelming. ”I guess the streets is where I’s born/ And the streets is where I’ll die/ Until then, the streets is where I’ll be,” Eric Sean Nally blares on “The Streets,” a track whose dynamics and backing choir could’ve made it a hell of a listen. But with run-of-the-mill urban-love lyrics like that, the song’s potential goes to waste. The problem resurfaces throughout the record because of over-repetition (the album’s most immediate track, “Holy Touch,” could’ve used some of Nally’s wit or some of his roars from the previous LP), trite subject matter (the pure-classic rock centerpiece, “Last Chance at Love,” doesn’t say anything that wasn’t said 30 years ago — you might even swear you’ve heard it before), and mind-blowingly stupid choruses (“I don’t wanna be just anybody’s boyfriend/ I wanna be yours” belongs on a Justin Bieber record).
No-one, especially me, is denying Foxy Shazam’s talent. The production, song structures, uses of choirs and Brian May-esque guitar solos, and especially skill with dynamic sonics is obvious throughout Church, just as it was throughout Foxy Shazam. But this album needed more songs like “I Like It,” the hilarious lead single, where Nally quips “That’s the biggest black ass I’ve ever seen/ And I like it, I like it a lot” over Def Leppard guitars. It needed more attention to substance and less to style — well, maybe not less to style, but certainly a better mix of the two. The move away from pop-punk brightens the band’s future (as much as I hate to say it), but it doesn’t seem like they’ve quite reached another destination yet. The resurrection of showy rock and roll may not be nigh, but Foxy can carry the torch until it is — if they explore themselves rather than Queen’s back catalogue.
Stream: Foxy Shazam – “I Like It”
Stream: Foxy Shazam – “Welcome to the Church of Rock and Roll”