“I’m never gonna dance like James Brown/ I’m never gonna be black/ and I’m never gonna get you back,” sings Sam France in one of the opening tracks to Foxygen’s sixth album. It’s not your traditional serenade of self-pity, but indicative of their new type of punk: free of cause and only really there to wind you up.
From all the acid rock glory of their breakout album We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors, Seeing Other People does more than put a damp cloth to the flame. The California duo have never been free from pastiche, but the playfulness that endeared their first few releases has evaporated. The best they can do here is turn a Rolling Stones ballad into a Lemon Twigs diss track on ‘Livin’ A Lie’, or mask the vocal line of ‘The Thing Is’ with enough of the Sun Studio slap-back echo that you forget it sounds like a revved up tribute to Roy Orbison’s ‘Only The Lonely’.
It’s more concise than the 24-track trawl through 2014’s …And Star Power, and less self-indulgent than the glammed-up baroque pop of Hang, but it’s got less sincerity than both put together. A saving grace comes with ‘News’ – a wistful slow-jam brimming with surf rock revivalism. Otherwise, even the brief glints of self-awareness are annoying; unrequited love comes with an ego-trip. “She’s so fly, she blows my mind/ But she don’t have any notion of who I am/ She surely don’t listen to Foxygen,” they sing in ‘Flag At Half-Mast’. This collection won’t do a huge amount to convince her otherwise.