Sacred Hearts Club

Foster The People

Columbia, 2017

http://www.fosterthepeople.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/01/2017

Foster the People’s 2014 album Supermodel was a truly great record, one of the best of that year, leaving behind the indie rock clichés and mundane sound of the debut Torches for a lush, catchy pop-rock effort. It was a well-written album of musical and lyrical substance and did not receive nearly the acclaim that Torches had, mainly because “Coming Of Age” wasn’t the off-kilter, navel-gazing hit single that “Pumped Up Kicks” was back in 2011.

I had hoped Mark Foster would continue in that vein on the band’s third album, but he has gone in yet another different direction. The results have yet again positioned FTP in the middle of the pack instead of leading the way as they did on Supermodel. The indie rock aesthetic is almost completely gone now, replaced with shiny EDM beats, computerized vocals, hip-hop influences, and a feeling of neon-colored dance floor immediacy that won’t last. It’s an album for right now, like Katy Perry’s my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Witness or pretty much any major pop album of the last year not sung by Beyoncé or Adele.

If you stripped away the layers of sound on Supermodel, you discovered the bones of the songs were still strong; witness the Spotify acoustic sessions for proof of this. Here, if you strip away the digital effects and pop music gadgetry that everyone else is doing right now, there’s almost nothing underneath. I never once hit repeat for a track the way I did four or five times on Supermodel, nor did I recall much of what I’d heard when the 41 minutes was over (so at least it’s short).

Perhaps Foster is aiming for the pop charts now instead of the alternative ones. Given the current hits on pop radio and the NOW! collections, songs like “Pay The Man,” “Harden The Paint,” and “Sit Next To Me” could slot in comfortably, what with their synthesizer sheens, hip-hop overtones, and catchy dance beats. At times, the approach meshes with the band’s sound of old, as on “SHC” and the raw garage-surf rocker “Lotus Eater,” for a glimpse of what could have been and for the strongest songs of the album. Of course, “SHC” is adjacent to the corny, awkward “I Love My Friends,” which is what would happen if an emoji came to life, and I’m dumber for hearing it.

There’s also a streak of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson through the album, from Foster’s production techniques to the vocal harmonies on some of the songs and a feeling of clinging to an innocence even though you know better. This doesn’t make a track like “Static Space Lover” very good, but it makes it interesting for what Foster is trying to achieve; he may not always pull it off, but he has ambition to spare. Same goes for “Loyal Like Sid And Nancy,” a bizarre pastiche of the White Stripes, trip-hop, and ‘80s pop and certainly the oddest song this band has yet recorded.

So Sacred Hearts Club has its moments, and they may pick up a new audience now depending on how things shake out, but those who liked the first two albums are in for a letdown. Foster’s knack for production, ambition, and sonic detail is as impeccable as ever but his songwriting has slipped several notches; save for newcomers or dedicated fans, there’s little here to recommend for lasting value. A disappointing third entry from a talented band.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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