The Foxymorons is a terrible pun and an even worse band name. It’s also entirely forgivable, considering that the Texan duo — made up of childhood friends Jerry James and David Dewese — were in their early 20s when they came up with it back in 1994. That puts them both somewhere in their 40s these days, not that you’d know that from a cursory listen of their fifth LP, Fake Yoga. In addition to boasting the snottiest album title of their career, it comes swarming with fuzz and adolescently crunchy hooks, a far cry from the more delicate, pastoral plucking heard on 2010’s Bible Studies.
In the wrong hands, this could come off as a sonic midlife crisis, a cynical attempt at a rebellion that hadn’t even been tackled in the band’s younger days. But in The Foxymorons’ case, the amped up energy stems not from a desperate bid for youth, but an anxiety that’s very much the result of getting older. James, Dewese, and their rotating cast of session players aren’t blowing out the garage because they want to feel young again — they’re doing it so they can be at peace with their current age.
The result is a record caught between young adulthood and just plain adulthood, but you have to delve into the lyrics to discover that dichotomy. And, even then, the clues come from individual lines instead of a greater narrative. “Sentient Creatures” shows someone who’s tired of “running from canines and cops,” and “Later, Alligator” turns that exact rock cliche on its head by aiming it at the recklessness of the narrator’s past, a recklessness they’re not so sure they want to be associated with anymore. In that sense, it’s the indie slacker equivalent of Lou Reed’s “Hangin’ ‘Round”.
But even in its most blatant rejections of juvenilia, Fake Yoga isn’t exactly sure of its own maturity, and that’s a good thing. Lest the sneering James and the more full-throated Dewese (the two split lead vocal duties almost down the middle) come off as holier than youth, they admit to making some of the same boneheaded mistakes they decry. These range from the off-and-on-and-off relationship in “Spinning On a Needle” (the album’s most fuzz-drowned track) to the on-and-off-and-on one in “Always Come Back”. “Slow Geometry” gets nittier and grittier by hinging the success of yet another messy romance on a couple’s shared love of pop culture. By the end, we know that a cool record collection does not a stable relationship make, even if those records are by Neil Young (On the Beach) and Minor Threat (Complete Discography, because what else would it be?).
The only time Fake Yoga falls into the condescension it so deftly avoids elsewhere is on “Permanent Frown”, a simplified profile of the typical (and also non-existent) rock and roll bad girl we’ve heard in countless songs before. It might stand out if Dewese ever got past his laundry list of the woman’s gloomy yet alluring physical features (get the juxtaposition?), but he doesn’t: piercings, shredded roots, cherry lips, a permanent frown, yada yada yada.
Thankfully, “Permanent Frown” still comes laced with enough power pop caffeine to keep the listener jolted, and like everything else on Fake Yoga, its unique status (in this case, being the one weak track on the album) comes solely from reading along with the lyrics. Words aren’t for everyone, so those who prefer just to listen will likely have fun. And those who decide to go deeper might start to feel old, which, in the world of The Foxymorons means feeling at ease, or at least trying to.