One of the hardest touring and most internationally renowned bands to come out of Cincinnati in the past decade, electrifying carnival rockers Foxy Shazam, are all set to release their new album, The Rock and Roll Church, which is due in stores this Tuesday. But the band’s fourth full-length won’t be coming out on Sire/Warner Brothers, the major label that released Foxy’s previous two albums and helped them amass a dedicated following in the U.S. and overseas. Last year, Foxy Shazam — which most recently has been touring with popular acts like The Darkness and Panic at the Disco — became the first band to sign with the newly relaunched I.R.S. Records.
It’s not the first time a Cincinnati band has signed to I.R.S. Early on, one of Cincinnati’s most successful bands of the last 20-plus years — Over the Rhine — signed a deal with the same label, which was founded in 1979 by Miles Copeland (brother of Police drummer Stewart) and home to key “Alternative” music releases by R.E.M., The English Beat, Concrete Blonde, The Go-Go’s and many others. The new I.R.S. Records is being re-sparked as a joint venture between Crush Management (whose founders have guided the careers of Train and Gym Class Heroes) and EMI.
Foxy Shazam has been compelling from the get-go, but the group has really fine-tuned its sound over the last couple of albums. Though built on a foundation of Hard Rock, Classic Rock and Punk, Foxy rarely abides by the rules of any genre, bending and molding their theatrical, often anthem-worthy compositions into creative new shapes. That doesn’t begin to give a good representation of the group’s latest, though. Church takes Foxy’s unpredictability to new heights and is the group’s most diverse (yet still quite accessible) record to date.
Opening cut “Freedom” sounds like a 1972 FM radio staple with its surging organ and a guitar solo “tribute” to David Gilmour’s soulful shredding on “Comfortably Numb,” with elastic singer Eric Nally showing off his versatile range and vocal pyrotechnics. Meanwhile, the ominous, oceanic riffing on “The Temple” sounds a little like a raw, dirty White Stripes song (if Jack White smoked PCP and recited weird poetry in the middle) and “Wasted Feelings” slinks and swaggers like a mix between Prince and Some Girls-era Rolling Stones before erupting into a horn section-driven chorus that’s as big as the sky.
Elsewhere, “I Wanna Be Yours” is a hook-ridden strut ready for airplay by any radio station that dares, while “(It’s) Too Late Baby” shows the band can utilize space well and be just as effective in slightly dialed-back mode (with its African chant-sounding intro, quirky beats and electronics and expressive balladic piano, “Too Late Baby” gradually unfolds and builds with the dramatic flair of an orchestral composer). After a couple of tracks that come dangerously close to Toto’s brand of ’70s Rock & Roll (careful!), the band closes out the album strongly with the raunchy Zep boogie of “I Like It” and the expansive title track.
Like Faith No More, Queen, Zappa, Meatloaf and Salvador Dali doing ’shrooms and running the streets in true Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas style, Foxy’s Rock and Roll Church feels like a psychedelic mixtape at times. But, despite the influences worn fairly obviously on its sleeve (even if they are rearranged, ripped up and flipped upside down), Foxy has grown even more confident in its distinctive, imaginative voice. As a band, Foxy is “crazy” and “weird” in a David Lynch way because the constant non-sequiturs and unanticipated left turns feel perfectly natural coming from the band, even if they don’t make a lick of sense to anyone else. You can’t fake Foxy Shazam’s bold brand of oddness and creativity. And you definitely can’t fake the ace compositional skills (I’d love to see them write a fantastical Rock musical for Broadway) and remarkable musicianship that each member brings to the table.
Foxy Shazam will give praise for The Church of Rock and Roll this Saturday at the Madison Theater in Covington. Banderas, Cadaver Dogs and Automagik open the 7:30 p.m., all-ages show. Tickets are $15 through Ticketmaster outlets and www.ticketmaster.com.
How Old Time Flies …
Masterful Folk/Americana unit Jake Speed and The Freddies celebrates the one-year anniversary of its “Old Time Music Revue,” a live, monthly variety show held downtown at Arnold’s that Speed calls a mix between Prairie Home Companion (on which Speed has appeared) and Midwestern Hayride. It’s also the final edition of the Revue (by design), which is like a throwback to vaudevillian days, as Speed and his pals swap instruments, engage the audience, tell some jokes, present skits, juggle … you get the idea.
Music, of course, is the heart and soul of the Revue and each month Speed has invited a local musician to make a cameo (members of The Rubber Knife Gang, The Sundresses, Magnolia Mountain and The Tillers have been guests). For the grand finale Saturday, Speed will be joined by Indie Folk favorite, Sub Pop recording artist and Northern Kentucky native Daniel Martin Moore. The show is free and kicks off at 9 p.m.(www.freddiesmusic.com)
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: [email protected]