Foster The People

Columbia, 2014

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


With its recorded-in-a-bathroom vocals, peppy tone and catchy singalong nature masking dark themes, 2011’s “Pumped Up Kicks” felt almost like a gimmick song, the new “Semi-Charmed Life” for the Twitter generation. It put Foster The People on the map in a big way, but one wondered if they deserved to be there.

Supermodel proves that they do simply because it does not sound like their debut. The sophomore record has similar polished pop/rock songcraft and a looser, more organic, live feel than the debut Torches, making it less of an indie-rock record (this is a good thing) and owing to the band's live experience in between records. The concept here involves the dark side of capitalism, the need for instant acceptance (how many people liked your Facebook photo today? Only four? You are no longer popular, you loser) and putting on one’s best face for the world, appearing as a “supermodel” so as to appear flawless. It’s a necessary concept for today.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The L.A. trio seems to be shooting for arena rock-ready anthems, such as the expansive midtempo “Coming Of Age,” the vaguely psychedelic “Pseudologia Fantastica” and the chorus of “Are You What You Want To Be?,” which dares you to sing along with the “la la las” as the music explodes underneath. “Ask Yourself” is updated U2 with grit and another singalong chant (“Is this the life you’ve been waiting for?”), while “Nevermind” showcases some nifty acoustic guitar patterns and chamber piano, sounding quite a bit like Oasis in the process.

Mark Foster is able to mimic Brian Wilson, 311's Nick Hexum and Liam Gallagher, and has a tendency to veer between vocal tones in the same song, which is generally fine except on nonsensical songs like “Goats In Trees” and the dull “Fire Escape.” It works on the majestic stadium-sized “A Beginner’s Guide To Destroying The Moon” and the strident “Best Friend,” which alternates staccato and soaring passages to excellent results and is the best song here. The disc ends with a thud due to a triptych of forgettable tracks, but the download-only song “Tabloid Super Junky,” tacked on to the end of the pre-download version, should have been on the CD to end it properly.

Foster The People originally started as a studio concept and then built a fan base through touring and the success of “Pumped Up Kicks," which means that this music is simultaneously given studio flourishes (overproduction in spots, layers and complex arrangements that may be difficult to reproduce live) and a live arena rock feel, combining the best of both worlds for a very good ride. It is a record of ambition, of purpose and of hooks.

This time, the dark lyrics behind the catchy songs are much more than a gimmick. Foster The People has become a very good band and Supermodel is an addictive, slightly off-kilter pop-rock record that is both a huge step forward and an honest look at our culture.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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