During 2019, I’ll be writing about ten albums from the 2010’s that have defined my decade in music.
It’s four in the morning and I’m sitting in my friend’s room in my freshman dorm. This was an unusually late night, even by our standards. The reason why so many of us were up so late has long left my memory, but the scene has not. A small group of us remain wide awake, there are Domino’s pizza boxes spread around, and in the background, a small TV plays music videos on MTVU. It is almost like any other night during my early college days.
And then suddenly, it’s not.
It was at that moment that Foxy Shazam, and specifically, their self titled major label debut, Foxy Shazam came into my life.
Foxy Shazam wanted to be the biggest band in the world, and in 2010 they were larger than life. They called themselves “the Michael Jordan of rock and roll,” and described their music as being an amalgam of “Evel Knievel; Bruce Springsteen; my childhood; Van Morrison; my old friends from high school I don’t talk to anymore; Elton John; the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and beyond; Iggy Pop, and my first kiss.” More concisely, their music is bombastic, full of energy and life. Lead singer Eric Nally was the one most responsible for the group’s image, and the one who you can pin the all too easy comparison of the band to Queen – since he sounds like Freddie Mercury reincarnate, and dominated Foxy’s live shows with an undefinable stage presence. A typical show would feature Nally feeding the crowd off the wall anecdotes, eating lit cigarettes, and frequently dancing with the mic stand on stage.
Their self-titled album represented the band at the peak of their powers, refining their unique brand of post-hardcore into something much more digestible and upbeat. For me, their powerful and driving sound – the booming runaway drums, the over-the-top flamboyant vocals and guitar solos, the blazing horn and the prominent piano lines – was unbeatable.
I saw the soaring rise and dramatic fall of Foxy Shazam right before my eyes in only a few years time.
It’s late 2010 and I’m standing outside the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. Today is going to be a good day. Today is the day that I not only get to see Foxy Shazam, but before the show, I got to interview them for my college newspaper. To say that I’m nervous is a bit of an understatement. Even though I was hoping to speak to Eric Nally, I end up talking to horn player Alex Nauth and bassist Daisy Caplan in their RV outside the venue, and I’m completely star struck. We talk about things like touring, their influences, and all you can eat buffets.
Foxy’s headlining show that night at the Paradise is one that I’ll never forget. I’ve seen my fair share of concerts, but seeing Foxy Shazam live is nothing short of cathartic. They roll through their self-titled album and the crowd lets them have it. The whole band is on point, but I’m fortunate enough to stand right in front of pianist Sky White, who at one point jumps up onto his keyboard and stomps on it in time with the music.
I’m also lucky enough to see Eric Nally in top form. He’s wearing an eye patch (due to an injury at a previous show, he claims, but who knows for sure). He quips about how he spent all of the money from signing to a major label on “fireworks baby!” before yelling: “this song’s about being BROKE!” He eats three lit cigarettes. He places a crash cymbal on his head mid-song and has the drummer wail on it. Of course, the rambunctious night ends too soon; I drive home soon afterwards and get pulled over on the highway by the state police for speeding.
I got the chance to see Foxy a couple more times in the years following – in 2011 opening for pre-fame fun. and Panic at the Disco (needless to say, the crowd was very confused), and then again in 2012 headlining at a much smaller venue (their set was cut woefully short because many of the members were sick). But, neither of those sets matched up to the otherworldly experience of that first show at the Paradise.
In 2014, Foxy Shazam released their fifth studio album Gonzo. Produced by Steve Albini and released for free, most fans of the band’s more polished glam sound were disappointed in the album which had a distinct lack of hooks. Despite there being a song called “Have the Fun,” Gonzo was no fun, and it stopped any momentum that Foxy had gained from their previous two releases. Foxy set out on tour again – playing the entirety of Gonzo to start the show (a decision I’m still questioning to this day), before running backstage, changing out of their purple turtlenecks and performing another set of more popular Foxy songs. The disjointed nature of the show, the complete lack of interest from the audience during the Gonzo set, and the overall demeanor of the band throughout the show made it clear: this was not the same Foxy Shazam from only a few years prior, and that was not a good thing.
I go back to my apartment after the show, tell my roommates that “something wasn’t right” with the band – a few months later, Foxy Shazam goes on hiatus in the middle of their tour. Nearly five years later, it appears that all the members have moved onto their own individual pursuits, and there is no sign that they will ever reunite.
It is interesting to think about whether Foxy Shazam was a victim of bad timing, not having as much success because they were either too late or too early for the mainstream. Perhaps they would have gained more traction today with the recent resurgence of interest in Queen. Bands with less talent and less originality who take inspiration from classic rock acts of the past (like Greta Van Fleet) are easily selling out large venues around the country. On the flip side, perhaps if Foxy Shazam had been released five or six years earlier when pop punk and emo was going more theatrical (think: My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade), they might have ended up with a bigger audience as well.
Regardless of how much mainstream success they had in their time, I’ll never forget how much Foxy Shazam meant and still means to me. Foxy Shazam created music that made me feel joyous and more confident at a time when I was still trying to find out who I really was in a completely new environment. To this day, I listen to this album and can’t help but feel more positive about myself and the world around me.
Thanks for reading! What were your defining albums of the 2010s?
Here are some other albums that were released in 2010 that were considered for this series:
– Kanye West unleashes his magnum-opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
– Hellogoodbye trades auto-tune for mandolin and acoustic guitar on Would It Kill You?
– Beach pop reaches it’s peak with Young the Giant‘s self-titled, Best Coast‘s Crazy For You, and Surfer Blood‘s Astro Coast.
– MGMT releases the decidedly un-commercial, but still otherworldly Congratulations.
– Taylor Swift fully matures into an incredible country songwriter on Speak Now.