Foster The People – Torches (Columbia)
July 21, 2011 by Amanda Mace
Heard ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ yet? No? Really? Described as the soundtrack to summer 2011 by some, this cheery little ditty has of late been saturating radio stations and playlists so heavily, it’s no surprise we’ve been left wondering what it might take to persuade our stubborn British sun to sparkle. Indeed with every play, it is as impossible to deny its shimmery quality as it is to avoid a little impromptu shoulder wiggling. Every ingredient of a successful barbeque accompaniment is noisily present here: a bassline that drips like a melting lolly, laidback vocals, and, most importantly, an unavoidably hummable chorus. Even the video is crammed with arty shots of people sporting sunnies.
Recognition may have been a touch late – their single was originally released last year – but Foster The People must surely have guessed they had a hit on their hands. While less catchy than its predecessor, promotional single ‘Houdini’ offered frolics in the same manner as Mystery Jets, totalling two sing-along pop songs. So this Californian indie outfit had found themselves landed with a challenge – to alter widespread perceptions of the summer one-time hit by creating a memorable album of equal quality. Sadly, the reality of debut ‘Torches’ is eight other songs that not so much pale, but immediately fade in comparison.
It is true that some effort to avoid a single flash of fame has been made by the band, who hail originally from Los Angeles – ‘Torches’ is sprinkled with ambition. Second single ‘Helena Beat’ is appealing, with a fuzzy groove for sweet July evenings. In ‘Life On The Nickel’ Foster The People take note from electric smile-inducers Passion Pit with squeaky keys and falsetto, while ‘Call It What You Want’ might prompt a toe-tap or two.
Yet within seconds of most tracks, the eventual disappointment that follows is almost equal to that of arriving in Blackpool after expecting LA. Lazy to the point of annoyance, tracks such as ‘Miss You’ and ‘Waste’ quickly become tiresome. Others, like ‘I Would Do Anything For You’ are clichéd jumbles. By the time album closer ‘Warrant’ is reached, listeners are left feeling distinctly uninspired.
The biggest problem with ‘Torches’ is that the need to replicate the greatness of their most popular tune is all too clear. With such an early triumph came tremendous pressure to churn out further hits. It is certain that a band able to transform a song about gun crime into something delightful should excel, and a great shame they never appeared to take the appropriate amount of time needed to try.