Published Aug 07, 2018If you visit St. Louis band Foxing's bandcamp page, their bio reads: Foxing is a band. Someday Foxing won't be a band.
In just two sentences, a brand is deciphered. Foxing have always circled around existential angst and self-doubt; while the way they present these topics appears to be ever-changing, the release of their third full-length album, Nearer My God, proves that some bands are capable of bending genres while still remaining loyal to a distinct brand.
Nearer My God may present itself as a challenge. While Foxing haven't totally abandoned their previous post-punk roots, Nearer My God clings tight to experimental synth-rock. This album has the kind of confusion we associate with Radiohead; sometimes it's rock, sometimes it's punk, sometimes it's just noise. This album undoubtedly gets points for originality and experimentation; it's far from boring, but occasionally ventures into confusing territory.
The album's middle track, "Five Cups," sits at nearly ten minutes, for no explicable reason — the choice just doesn't seem calculated. Yet there are other unconventional choices that, while were risky, sit well. On "Bastardizer," bagpipes can be heard in the background. Pair that with Conor Murphy screaming: "Runaway father / You swear him away / Now that you're absent / You find it okay," and it resonates. It makes the track identifiable.
The same formula is applied to "Won't Drown," a track that opens with an accordion. As one of the album's strongest songs, you have to push past the confusion. It's full-bodied, and mindfully crafted, with an interesting shift about three minutes in, only to return back home in the end.
One of Foxing's best songs yet is arguably "Rory," which appeared on Albatross in 2014. This song, which was a painful tale of unrequited love, is mirrored by "Lich Prince" on Nearer My God. While these two songs couldn't be more different in composition, "Lich Prince" recalls the old Foxing. As Murphy sings: "I just want real love for you," we're reminded of the complexities of love and the entanglement of both not being enough and not knowing how to fix it.
Nearer My God definitely doesn't lack self-deprecation, theological angst or cocaine references, all of which feel familiar, but it does present something new. It's Foxing in a new shape, a first-hand witness of the evolution of a band that were really good just the way they were. While these changes may not be welcome with open arms, the thoughtfulness and artistry deserves a round of applause. (Triple Crown)