Foster The People - Torches Album Review
When I look back, I've no real idea how I stumbled across Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People, sometime last year. At that point there was no official video, in fact it probably hadn't even been released, but there was something different, utterly mesmeric, in its bleached post punk bassline and megaphone-treated vocals. Then of course there was the chorus, a bag of misanthropy like none other heard outside of Trent Reznor's head, repeating over and over: "All the other kids with the pumped-up kicks/You better run, better run, faster than my bullet". In short, it was the coolest track this side of Electric Feel.
Looking back at the YouTube version I remember going to frequently then, the slow acknowledgement of the blogosphere has since mushroomed into something resembling a freight train, a fact acknowledged by the appearance of Torches on the majorest of labels. You imagine that whilst for us it's seemed almost like a process of osmosis to get this far, for permanent FTP members Mark Foster, Mark Pontius and Cubbie Fink the last 18 months have disappeared in the blink of an eye.
There is an obvious problem with being signed on the basis of more or less one song, no matter how good it is. Audiences and suits alike are expecting replication, more chips off the same sonic block, and some (In reality most) times this can find the artists concerned trapped like a rabbit in the headlights.
Torches contains Pumped Up Kicks - why wouldn't it - but bravely, there isn't a single attempt amongst the other nine other songs to produce anything remotely like it. What the listener gets instead is the kind of radio friendly threads that have landed Phoenix at the top of the Anglophile indie rock tree, full of major keys and love, optimism and sunny harmonies. In short, Pumped Up Kicks fans, you're done right about here.
It's a bold move, but if there was any lurking sense of temptation, opener Helena Beat dispells the doubters neatly, the trio finding salvation in the arms of trilling synths and a fuzzy sub bass which hints at a passion for vintage New Order. The biggest (And only) concession to any archetypal "Indie" sound is via the riffing neatness of Don't Stop.
My though do these boys have a way with the big stuff, clutching death-defyingly huge slabs of shiny pop magic and then producing the essence of which summer festivals were made of. Closer Warrant starts with what sounds like a chorus of angels, before Foster moulds some leftfield soul out of the remains, on the way rooting out neat line in rabble rousing. Life On The Nickel is similar if less grandiose, but the jewel in the crown is I Would Do Anything For You, a tidal wave of oo-la-la's, handclaps and undying loved up warmth that's a brief sign you guess of what could have happened should MGMT have decided to swallow the pill marked "Success" instead.
This is all very much the same territory as charted earlier this year on Aussie outfit Cut Copy's mildly successful Zonoscope, but as there, when occasionally the course is departed from the resulting mess - Call It What You Want - sounds very much like a retread of the now long forgotten session journeymen Orson. That they rose and subsequently vanished without a trace shocked nobody. But Torches at least is Foster The People's best shot at avoiding the same fate.