In the immortal words of Spinal Tap’s David St. Hubbins, “There’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.” Miraculously, childhood friends Jerry James and David Dewese have found a way to toe that line by naming their band the Foxymorons. Fortunately, their music is far from gimmicky, even if the ‘90s-style alt-rock packed with huge, genuinely infectious hooks and glorious guitar fuzz that James and Dewese seek to emulate on their fifth album, Fake Yoga, has theoretically become uncommon enough in the years since it was actually popular to be considered a gimmick. But great melodies are timeless, and, being chock full of ‘em, Fake Yoga is no nostalgia-fest, as much as it pleasingly recalls mid-‘90s faves like Wilco, Pavement and the Flaming Lips. In the end, it’s just a catchy-as-hell rock record.
Funnily enough, the Foxymorons can actually be considered contemporaries of those bands mentioned above to some degree, considering the fact that they originated as a lo-fi home recording project in Mesquite, Texas back in 1994. Twenty years later, James and Dewese are still playing almost everything themselves on Fake Yoga, save the drums by Texas indie rock luminary Will Johnson of the recently disbanded Centro-Matic. Centro-Matic’s Matt Pence also mixed the album, and it sounds like it. This isn’t even garage rock; it’s more like bedroom rock. Not to say it isn’t noisy or energetic. It is very much so all the way through. But there’s a palpable sense of intimacy to Fake Yoga’s Spartan-yet-full-bodied guitars/bass/drums arrangements and endearing performances. That dudes-next-door feel is abetted greatly by James and Dewese’s playful vocals, charmingly cracking and rasping at all the right moments – see the off-kilter, abrupt, yet sort of adorable shriek that closes “Sentient Creatures.”
There are, indeed, plenty of dudes next door capable of replicating the singing and guitar work found on Fake Yoga, or at least a sloppy, inferior facsimile of them. Most of them aren’t capable of writing melodies this insanely hooky, though. Almost every song on the album features a tightly honed, honey-sweet earworm hook, from the sharp and caustic “Later, Alligator” to the near-bubblegum sugary goodness of “Always Come Back.” I mean, goddamn, send these guys back in the DeLorean a couple of decades and the driving “Sentient Creatures” would have easily rivaled “She Don’t Use Jelly” and “Cut Your Hair” as the alt-rock hit of 1994. It’s got all the necessary elements – the fuzzy guitars, the semi-ironic Beatlesque backing vocals, the impish DIY aesthetic and the aforementioned shriek.
With cleaner production, a few of the melodies on Fake Yoga may have wound up sounding a bit too cute for some. Fortunately, however, James and Dewese wisely coat the entire record in a delightfully grimy layer of fuzz – the guitars, the vocals, the bass, everything. Basically, if you loved the distortion pedal filter of Pavement’s “Date with IKEA,” you’re going to love the way this album sounds. The fuzz grants the rockers an irreverent edge and propulsive energy, but unfortunately, it doesn’t have the same effect on the slower tunes. Even on an album that’s barely over half an hour long, Fake Yoga loses considerable momentum when it backs off the frenetic sugar rush pace it establishes for most of its running time. The amorphous drag “The People” stops the album in its tracks just as it’s getting started, and while the closing duo of “Slow Geometry” and “Mixed Meds” are much more melodically solid, they constitute a bit of a deflating way to end such an effortlessly fun record.