The Foxymorons aren’t exactly local, or a band. Sure, half the duo – Jerry James – calls Mesquite home. James’ collaborator, David Dewese, lives in Nashville. And the two release albums and perform live. But they do these things only sporadically.
Bible Stories is their first record in five years. Considering the music, though, it’s difficult to fault their approach. The Foxymorons have been playing together since 1994, and their hook-laden, witty power-pop reflects more than just years of experience.
James and Dewese clearly have an intimate knowledge of one another’s playing styles; they sound more like old friends with a natural knack for songwriting than a formal band. It’s a playful, casual feeling that pervades Bible Stories. Both trade off vocal duties and guitar from song to song, enlisting friends to fill out their lineup with drums and piano. Yet the back-and-forth never sounds like two different voices.
Big Star, Nilsson Schmilsson-era Harry Nilsson, Dinosaur Jr., Pavement – the Foxymorons coalesce every hint of their influences seamlessly, expertly referencing a broad swath of ’90s indie rock and ’70s alt-country while remaining distinctive, and adding their own flavor.
Bible Stories was recorded by the Foxymorons in a Nashville basement last winter. Perhaps the duo’s radiating confidence stems from having such firm control over the material. Most of the music is ostensibly conventional, direct pop-rock. The guys use traditional instrumentation and the melodies are immediately captivating.
But like Austin’s Spoon, James and Dewese have a talent for subtlety, making music that is often deceptively simple because it’s almost too catchy at times. They can create a lot out of nothing, using perfectly timed bridges to transcend their choruses.
Often, the duo interrupts a track’s progressive drive to pull back layers, focusing on a stark, ethereal harmonization, spare percussion or the striking of a lone piano key. Similarly, on the countrified Beach Boys tune, “Mesketeers,” it’s the least forceful element in the track that’s ultimately the most rewarding. Placed at the bottom of the mix, a droning organ hums purely, majestically, slyly driving the entire song.
Trafficking in equally sentimental and self-deprecating reflections on youth, it’s the sort of music only aging hipsters could produce. Not that I’m complaining. There’s more swimming beneath the surface of the record than the music lets on. Bible Stories might not change your life, but it could very well – and unexpectedly – brighten your mood.