Foster The People - Supermodel

by Jim Harris Rating:6.5 Release Date:2014-03-24

If there was ever a chance of a band not being able to follow-up a perfect pop song, it would be Foster the People following up ‘Pumped Up Kicks’. This dreamy, hip, California-pop classic has an infectious refrain and that brilliant sort of shoulder-bobbing repetition which has 'classic' written all over it. Add to that dark, underlying lyrics pop fans can widen their eyes to and talk about as they listen to the song over and over again. Well…

There is no ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ on Supermodel. The first single, ‘Coming of Age’ is an oddly drawn, overly derivative piece which never quite kicks up much of anything. While anger is an energy, as John Lydon once repeated over and over again, and this is supposedly FTPs angriest of the two albums, there is very little of the energy in Supermodel we found on Torches. 

There was a certain level of exuberance on their first album which is lacking on their second. In fact, the stripped-down sound, and the isolated, loud guitar solos which acts as counter to the acoustic intros and pluckings often sound like a band struggling to find something resembling their own musical direction, and very infrequently sound like a band settling into comfortable grooves. 

This is not to say Supermodel is a bad album. It has its moments. The opening track, ‘Are You What You Want to Be?’, kicks it off with a promising world vibe which shows FTP can hang with the likes of Vampire Weekend and MGMT. It leaves the listener with a cool feeling and high expectations. But from there? 

They had a few extra producers on Torches who filled every corner of their sound with a blissful, psychedelic richness and almost innocent rawness. However, such a band runs a horrible risk when they strip it down, so to speak. To not use a producer like Rich Costey (Joy Formidable, Interpol, Santigold) on just a couple songs or so, as they did with Torches, probably left a void here. The guitars sound cheesy at times and Mark Foster’s voice shouldn’t be left so alone on so many songs.

However, owing to that, there are some amazing bright spots, as with the song, ‘Pseudologia Fantastica’. Which is clearly an MBV ripped riff that simply kicks it in. I’m fine with this influence, but it will probably leave a legion of Vampire Weekend crossovers wrinkling their noses.

And therein lies the major problem with Supermodel as a whole. It leaves you wondering who this band is and where they're headed. Yes, as Kevin Foster stated, Supermodel is more stripped-down, more organic, and yes, they have talent, but clearly here is a band which does not want to be doing ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ as an encore for the rest of their career. (And who would?) 

Having such a huge first hit has its rewards and also its curses. Ask such alternative greats as Big Country, Jesus Jones, Semisonic, Stan Ridgway, Fountains of Wayne… And on and on. Let’s see what happens on their third album.

(If you knew all those songs right off the top of your head, Blab it here…)

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