Stimulus: Foxy Shazam ‒ Church of Rock & Roll
The way I’ve described this album in my head is that Church of Rock & Roll is what would happen if Mindless Self Indulgence decided to become the Darkness. Sometimes Foxy Shazam throws out the Darkness milk jug and goes straight for the Queen cow’s tit, but as a whole this album isn’t grandiose or conceptual so much as it is a no bullshit, straight up amazing rock and roll album.
The only drawback to be found in this wailing tribute to the spirit of rock and roll is that Foxy seems to have chucked out most of its delightful weird in making a beeline for rock legitimacy. In contrast with its previous works of high quirk, the strangest thing to be found here comes in Foxy’s merger of ten pound ball rock swagger and Sir Mix-a-lot’s love of big butts in “I Like It,” a track which is far and away the album’s best. Yet for as much as Eric Sean Nally continues to wail like rock’s gospel diva (the track “Last Chance At Love” reads like triumphant Joan Jett Top 40), the words which accompany his frenetic tones and the music to surround it all is pretty straightforward even while it tears up the walls. No complaints from Nally about hipsters calling him gay here. Oh well. It’s a more than fair tradeoff.
Stimulus: Conspirator ‒ Unlocked – Live from the Georgia Theatre
“Park Ave,” the track which kicks off this collection of electronic instrumentals filtered through rock instrumentation, is kind of a false start. As opposed to the rest of the album, which reads like a very workmanlike DJ set, this first song meanders and sways around, giving the impression that Conspirator is something of a jam band. Nothing that follows sounds anything like that first track, but for some reason I couldn’t shake that jammy first impression.
To call Unlocked a serviceable performance is no insult, especially since Conspirator proves here that it’s a hell of a band. There is a well-executed musical theme which runs throughout the set which makes a lot of its chapters sound quite similar both in sound and tempo. Even Conspirator’s appropriation of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” fits the style, chugging away with so much of the usual march that the end result is much less cover than sample contorted to fit the overlying musical agenda. In such a world, the final song, “Retrograde,” could have been notable for little more than bucking the formula and being a rock song with its own time signature. Luckily, it’s also a really good track in its own right, a concise conclusion that answers the album’s spaced out opening by being both unique and connected with everything prior.
It’s probably true that had the music of Unlocked been released as a studio album with the same structures, it wouldn’t have worked out as well. The fact that Conspirator released this as a live performance gives all its familiar themes and beats a legitimacy and excitement that would have had us music critics bitching about everything sounding the same had it come in the studio pill. In any event, the band sounds fantastic, rendering such distinctions pointless. Here, excitement trumps architecture.