“Nearer My God To Thee” is a hymn we’ve likely all heard; its ominous tones were alleged to have been played by a live band while the Titanic sank, and it was infamously recorded in 1980 by CNN founder Ted Turner and tucked away to be played when the world comes to an end. Now, the eerie tune is the namesake for the third album of St. Louise band Foxing. Nearer My God, chalk full of this knee-shaking fear of sin and where it gets us, is truly the
soundtrack to the end of the world. For the third time, Foxing has entirely reinvented themselves as a band; this big, glittery, weird album unlike anything we’ve heard from them before. Though it touches on their past success as an angst-y emo-revival, math-rock band, this album also spirals into a dizzying death-disco that won’t let your heart beat slow, incorporating synth and vocal distortion, and even vaguely touches on R&B in the track “Won’t Drown.” And just wait until you hear the bagpipes.
The album opens with “Grand Paradise,” in what I would consider typical Foxing fashion when, 1:37 in we are all “shock collared at the gates of heaven.” Singer Conor Murphy begins to share his anxiety about his sins, the ever-impending apocalypse, and not knowing what to do with his hands while he waits. In the fourth track, “Gameshark,” we get our first actual reference to the aforementioned hymn. The song is wailing and eerie, full of Murphy’s signature falsetto and superb grasp of vocabulary, depicting the “dizygotic twin of god” leading him into sin, finishing loud and anxious before cutting off with a distorted selection of the CNN “Turner Doomsday Video”, the apocalypse has come. The title track of the album comes next, a masterpiece with lyrics that could be shouted from car windows or tweeted quietly in the middle of the night, truly grasps the overwhelming urge to just be “America’s pool boy” and have someone tell us what to do. The first half of the album is wrapped up by the nine minute long Five Cups, a ballad to dead friends, with wailing peaks and gut-wrenching troughs, the song finishes out with a brass tone, like a ship reaching shore.
While we are recovering from feeling second-hand anxiety and sadness, the second half of the album begins with “Heartbeats,” a delirious and suspenseful disco tune with classical music selection interludes. The following tracks treat us to a glitch-pop tribute to shopping malls, that R&B I promised, and finally the album is rounded out by a baritone and bass-y number that makes me want to stay home in bed. This album is a transcendental journey for the band and long time fans, a risk worth taking. I, for one, am looking forward to how these new songs fit in with their live sets, as Foxing starts their North America tour later this month, joined by Ratboys and Kississippi.