Foxy Shazam is a band best enjoyed loud. The group is raucous and slightly insulting, like when frontman Eric Nally proclaims, “That’s the biggest black ass I’ve ever seen and I like it.”
The Cincinnati-based sextext—comprised of Nally (vocals), Loren Turner (guitar), Daisy (bass), Sky White (piano), Aaron McVeigh (drums) and Alex Nauth (horns)—released its fourth album, The Church of Rock & Roll, led by the aforementioned single “I Like It” today through the newly re-launched I.R.S. Records.
The borderline-animalistic rockers, who toured all over the world in support of 2010’s major-label debut, simply entitled Foxy Shazam, are lauded for their onstage presence and personas, antics and acrobatics. And of course, their music—some sort of steroid-infused blend of rock, ska and glam stadium-fillers topped off with Nally’s hipster pencil-thin moustache—fits the live act.
Like with Foxy’s previous efforts, The Church of Rock & Roll shines in its ballsy rejection of modern pop stereotypes, however, the new album slips in its contradictions. Nally vacillates between the gleefully outrageous (“Welcome to the Church of Rock & Roll” and “I Like It”) and the totally serious (“Forever Together,” where he recounts a conversation during which his young son begs him not to go on tour). Even in the breakdown of “The Temple,” Nally repeatedly whispers, “I am tired,” enunciating each word clearly and discontentedly.
Fans see Nally as rock’s anti-hero—the guy monkey-walking across the stage and jumping on bandmates’ shoulders during sets—so it’s a bit disappointing to listen to these foibles and realize that the singer is not, in fact, invincible.
But, The Church of Rock & Roll’s adherence to its titular theme is also commendable, as it tiptoes the demarcation that distinguishes concept albums from other LPs. Songs like “Holy Touch” and “Last Chance At Love” draw on all the best structural elements from ‘70s arena rockers. “The Streets” features soulful choir-like backing vocals, funky bass thumpings and excellent muted trumpet work from Nauth. And on “Wasted Feelings,” Nally channels his inner Freddie Mercury with gender-bending falsettos.
While the majority of The Church of Rock & Roll succeeds in its extravagant homage to the holy temple of Rock, its moments of realism only serve as dysfunctional and disjointed disturbances to Foxy Shazam’s idyllic rock ‘n’ roll reverie.