Foster The People’s ultra-famous breakthrough single anthem Pumped up Kicks from Torches and an intricate and human sophomore album Supermodel materialised them to be one of the most talented and creatively diverse group out there in the indie rock scene of this decade. At the age of 18, Mark Foster moved to Sylmar, Los Angeles to move in with his uncle. The LA lifestyle welcomed him to the world full of possibilities where he developed his varying artistic inclinations. He struggled with drug addiction at the age of 19, beat it and moved on to being a more productive musician. Mark Foster had a career as a jingle writer which gave him a sense of what works and what doesn’t in the pop music industry of America today. He waited tables earning bucks as he dealt with writer’s block. Eventually upon teaming up with Mark Pointius and Cubbie Fink, Foster had found his people. 2011 saw them release what would be their biggest single ever, which would become a youth anthem in the coming years, garnering more the 300 million views on YouTube and catapulting the group and their idiosyncratic sound to the very top of the modern alternative music. Their pop-rock-electro-psychedelia dance music became a brand of its own in the mid-2010s with an organic and fresh sounding second album Supermodel. Much like Lana Del Rey’s music and videos as a collective sparks nostalgia and an old familiar feeling, Foster The People’s music and videos also hint at the 90s and 2000s cultural nostalgia and coming of age, even though their music is futuristic and not reminiscent of the 90s.
Foster The People had released three songs earlier in 2017, one of which featured in my first half of top 30 Alternative songs of 2017, Pay the man. Pay the man, Doing it for money and SHC was released as an EP for their now out third album, Sacred Hearts Club. Pay the man which is also the first song of the record had me hyped up back when I listened to the EP. From the very beginning, 80s synth pop influences with Alternative house and hip hop beats alongside credible dubstep breakdowns put together and produced with a rock n roll school of thought is essentially what this album is about. Sometimes, diversifying your music to the extent in order to incorporate sounds from various genres out there can be tricky and often a bad hand. Before this album, Foster the People was already recognisable due to a personalised style that was their music and Mark’s vocal range and capacity. Everyone in the indie rock scenario is more than familiar with what Foster the People have sounded like on their previous records and often are encouraged, by their fans to sound a certain likeable way. That’s what, hits do to musicians. Experimentation is often not met with support and I read YouTube comments telling them that they should have stuck to their primal sound which was more pop and pleasing. But what most people never understood is, Foster The People is as much electronica as much it is an Alternative hip hop band, also as much it is a soft rock ensemble of the modern era. Pay The Man was nothing but a message, an information or even a guide by Mark and Co. that what was to follow and expect from them, here on. In Doing it for money, the message became just a little clearer as we went on listening, they are definitely not after fame or popularity, but the evolution of their music. Next, comes, Sit next to me and SHC which is most FTP sounding tracks on the record as people would label it. SHC almost sounds like an extra or a B side track from their first album, Torches.
Prior to the release, it was revealed that the album will feature the 60s inspired sounds and a psychedelic influence, which it did but only to an extent and in my opinion, failed to be a neo psychedelic masterpiece that it most certainly could have been. The later half of the album with songs like I love my friends, lotus eater, orange dream are lacklustre and forgettable songs, trying hard to stick to the overall environment that the earlier half of the album created but there seemed to be a lack of an effort. Static Space Lover, being the seventh track on the record recovers some of the lost intensity with its dreamy and 60s surf pop effect featuring actress-singer Jena Malone. Even then, the song is not done justice with its immediate successors, very forgetful and modulated Lotus eater and Time to get closer. Being a Foster the People fan, I was disappointed that certain gems from the beginning of the record and later, Static Space Lover was being lost amidst the uninspired tracks which seemed like fillers for the album to hold true to its vibe.
Little did I know that the best track of the album lyrically and sonically would be Loyal like Sid and Nancy, the 10th track. The song is not really punk but does have a heavy punk undertone fused with house, electronica and guitar music which is also structurally ambitious. Loyal like Sid and Nancy, is certainly the most hardcore track in the album, assembling all the musical influences that were at the centre of the album and their direction into one track. Listeners have criticised it to be a throwaway EDM track but if we critically judge the song for its arrangement and experimentation, keeping away your generic distaste towards electronic music, people would acknowledge it to be a great step ahead for the group. The album does not try to end in an over dramatic way, but more in a mellow and seems to arrive at the end, slowing down as it touches the 40th-minute mark.
After Supermodel and departure of bassist Cubie Fink, the band’s reinvention was a long time coming. Former touring members Sean Cimino and Isom Innis became official members in 2017 contributing to Sacred Hearts Club as multi instrumentalists.
Foster The People’s Current Line Up: Isom Innis, Mark Foster, Mark Pointius, Sean Cimino ( left to right)
Overall, I’d give Sacred Hearts Club, Foster The People’s third album a 3/5 for attempting to change their direction and sound from radio friendly to a raving electronic pop-rock record infusing elements of vaporwave beats , and while they lost some, they won more with Pay the man, Doing it for money, Sit next to me, SHC, Static Space Lover and Loyal like Sid and Nancy.