Foxy Shazam – The Church of Rock and Roll (IRS /EMI Records) review Rock n’ roll is supposed to be fun. But, if that’s truly the case, why is everyone so pissed off? The current crop of “rock” bands angrily storm the stage, pushing their voices as low as Auto-Tune will take them, and worst of all, they act like they don’t want to be rock stars! Well friends, from Cincinnati – here comes Foxy Shazam, sticking out like a transvestite in a Southern Baptist tent revival, they’ve come to put the “good” back in damn good times. Imagine taking your old LP copies of Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy and Queen’s News of the World, stacking them together on the sidewalk of a blistering hot day – you’d have quite a mess on your hands, but you’d get a better idea of what Foxy Shazam is all about.
For their fourth album, the Church of Rock and Roll (released on the newly-reactivated IRS Records), the band enlisted Justin Hawkins, the former lead singer of the Darkness, a band that flamed out after a promising beginning. Hawkins turns the bombast knob all the way up, cranking the guitars to eleven, and wrapping the drums in Bonham-like thunderous reverb. The album kicks off with the grandiose title track, featuring the smirky lyrics: “Your music sucks including us / it’s time we cleared our name.” The lead single, “I Like It,” is an infectious coital union of Zeppelin riffing, Queen singing and Ohio Players funking. “Holy Touch,” with its ascending pounding piano, explodes into another monstrous chorus.
And while there’s lots of nods to Seventies rockers, there’s an equal amount of good-time Eighties party rock, not heard since Kurt Cobain kicked the last of the hair bands into oblivion in the early Nineties. “Last Chance at Love” is one of those anthems that makes you wanna roll the windows down and drown out the hip hop coming from the pimple-riddled kid in the car next to you at the stoplight. “Forever Together” may be the most honest look at life on the road from the perspective of being a parent. While it’s easy to compare singer Eric Nally to the operatic stylings of the late Freddy Mercury, he’s also got some grit in his voice that approaches legendary Humble Pie belter Steve Marriott.
The band’s one oddity is trumpet player Alex Nauth, who adds horns to many of the tracks, but in unique ways – for “Last Chance” he uses a distortion pedal, making it sound a lot more like a guitar than a trumpet. While this works for some of the tracks (the breakdown in “Holy Touch” is greatly elevated by the jazzy trumpet), other times, a slammin’ guitar solo would’ve fit better in its place.
“(It’s) Too Late Baby” begins with bizarre percussion and slowly builds to its climactic ending. “I Wanna Be Yours” strips away the electric guitars for an acoustic stomper, while “Wasted Feelings” is funky, giving Nally a chance to explore his falsetto. As the ride comes to a close, a hangover ensues. There’s no way these guys could keep the fun going on forever, so the last ¼ of the disc drags a little. Both “The Temple,” and “The Streets” plod along with nary a hook in sight, and “Freedom” is preachy and overwrought.
The good news is, the songs are short, and never overstay their welcome. The entire disc clocks in at a mere 36 minutes, begging for the good stuff to be played again and again. Is Foxy Shazam the savior of rock n’ roll? Not likely. But, the Church of Rock n’ Roll is a return to fist-pumpin, good time music. It’s time to finally throw those flannel shirts in the trash. –Tony Peters