At its most pop Nearer My God almost veers into Scissor Sisters territory (as on opener ‘Grand Paradise’) which, as you can imagine, is quite far indeed for the St Louis indie-rock quartet. As an introduction to the band it will be a confusing, busy market place of ideas. And for fans of the band’s previous two outings it will mark something of a departure from their mathy rock and emo inflected indie and which makes this third full length record even harder to categorise.
While lead single ‘Slapstick’ was an expansive and atmospheric indie rocker more in the vein of their obvious peers such as Manchester Orchestra or Mount Joy but with an electronic foundation just below the surface, elsewhere flourishes of electro pop and synthesised guitars are aplenty, perhaps painting themselves as the US 1975. So, ‘Lich Prince’ has a touch of the new romantic about it; piano outro, loads of effects on everything and ‘Bastardiser’ has that same 1975/Suede self-conscious style. It’s the easiest track to digest here and, one surmises, a likely future single while the title track is also a bit more manageable for fans of Mew and all things quiet/loud.
But when Foxing miss their mark they miss spectacularly. On ‘Gameshark’ there is far too much going on, not mathy, though the bassline it’s built on is just too busy. ‘Candy Crown’ sounds like two different tracks overlayed. It’s a bizarre production technique that is a little disorienting, like a double exposure photograph but without the eventual sense of ease as your brain interprets all the information.
Centrepiece ‘Five Cups’ is passable indie-pop with a rock edge, at nine minutes long I should probably come up with some new post-genre but as the backward guitars and e-bow dip in and out, the track meanders along before eventually just drifting out into the sea. However, ‘Heartbeats’ has what at first sounds like a totally gratuitous classical intro and background before a handclap rhythm and all sorts of layered vocals and backing vocals take over and it becomes the foundation for something quite epic in scale. Taken on its own it’s very impressive. Great for a car ad or something equally engineered or grandiose, maybe the theme to Bilderberg: The Movie pointing to a grander musical pudding the band may just have over-egged this time out.
Take ‘Trapped in Dillard’s’, stripped naked of its weird mix of instrumentation the minor chord piano ballad could be a reimagining of Counting Crows’ ‘Raining In Baltimore’ but again there is too much going on for the listener to ever really get comfortable with the song. So, it is with a little relief that closer ‘Lambert’ ends Nearer My God on a high with a chiming, uplifting and final crashing chorus segment, and a fitting summary for what this album could have been had they focused more on the songs than the fiddly electronic wall of sound.
Nearer My God is released on 10th August through Triple Crown.