Most people would recognise Foster the People’s upbeat sound via their massive 2010 hit Pumped Up Kicks from their debut album Torches. What seemed like just another mindless indie earworm, the song hid a darker and more sinister side when people discovered that the lyrics were about a school massacre. Their latest album Supermodel has similar dark undertone, however it’s not so much in its lyrics but in the pure disappointment of the album’s quality.
Unfortunately, the so-called “second album syndrome” has certainly plagued the LA based trio led by ex-jingle writer Mark Foster. It’s an incredible shame that all the mindless insanity that made Torches so much fun has been replaced by an attempt to convey a political and social statement. Leave that to Radiohead guys, indie pop music is supposed to be fun.
The album mixes various sounds and genres in an attempt to create originality, but it often ends up sounding like a big old mess. Electronic synthesises are mixed with tribal beats and jangly guitars. It’s something a more accomplished band like Vampire Weekend would excel in, but for Foster the People, these attempts seem contrived and try-hard. Even the song titles are pretentious, with Foster crafting some mind bogglingly terrible names such as Pseudologia Fantastica, Beginners Guide To Destroying The Moon and Goats In Trees.
The songs on the album are incredibly mismatched, they don’t mesh together well at all. Each song stretches out way past its used by date, with many almost reaching the gruelling five-minute mark. We jump from song to song without much consistency and it feels messy rather than thrilling. The closest we get to a catchy and definitive stand out track may be the album’s first single Coming of Age or Best Friend. Both songs are fun in their own ways, but neither packs a punch quite like Torches singles Call It What You Want or Helena Beat.
Other “highlights” on the album include the atmospherically upbeat Ask Yourself and the beautifully relaxing acoustic track Fire Escape. But the rest of the tracks leave little to the imagination and are highly uninspired, with the band taking obvious cues from Animal Collective, Radiohead and The Flaming Lips to progress their “quirky” sound.
Although, to be fair, the music itself is well extremely produced, it sounds crisp and shiny, which was obviously their aim. But it’s Foster’s screechy vocals that become the album’s true downfall. His voce is certainly an acquired taste, and what was seen as fun and inexperienced on their first album hasn’t improved with age.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t have been more disappointed with this album, which is a real shame. Foster the People certainly seemed like they had potential to be an influential indie pop band back in 2011, but that all seems like a hazy blur now.
This review was written for and published on SYN’s features blog