“I must say, what a very nice bunch of boys,” intones a stuffy narrator over the sound of a ravening crowd on opener Introducing Foxy. Seconds afterwards, as the guitars scream into top gear and the track settles into a handclap-driven groove punctuated by bursts of hardcore rage, you realise he’s right. The weird piano-heavy hybrid punk sound of Foxy Shazam is strangely beautiful and beautifully strange, and at times it’s difficult to tell whether they have a conscious agenda of subversion or are just having a good time.
The band excel in below-the-belt, bait-and-switch musical tactics. Inexplicably titled A Black Man’s Breakfast seems to be a pretty straight Queen-influenced love song, but your opinion changes slightly when lead guitarist Loren Turner soloes sweetly in the wrong key. Ghost Animals trips the listener up with four unexpected rhythmic surprises in its first forty seconds, while the Latin horn tune that heralds album highlight Red Cape Diver is abruptly muffled by a tender piano melody, only to later return in a smoky Santana-esque
Speaking of Queen, Foxy Shazam compare themselves to said late great band in their press releases, although again it’s uncertain how much they’re just trying to stir up controversy. Vocalist Eric Nally uses his stunning voice for evil, not good, sounding in his soul-infused snarl a bit like Freddie Mercury after being kidnapped, tortured and told all his family were dead. Introducing... captivates on a first listen with its eclectic uniqueness and then progressively reveals its subtleties. Foxy Shazam will divide opinion; this is the first Marmite album of 2008, and perhaps the first great one too.