To borrow from the language of tabloids: could Foxygen be heading straight towards break-up territory? The (official) word on the street is no, but hey, stranger things have happened. Take Jonathan Rado’s debut solo effort, for example; Law and Order doesn’t distinguish itself much from his other headline-making project, but possibly just enough to hint that there may be trouble in paradise. Thanks to a rather personal and deeply uncomfortable public display from Sam France’s girlfriend on Tumblr, the whole world now knows that Rado and France have been distancing themselves from each other (or at least, so she says). Whether these two are embroiled in conflict or not, Law and Order comes across like a bizarre pastiche of 1960s nostalgia that doesn’t quite add up to all that much on its own.
Snaps to Rado for taking chances, though, because on Law and Order, each moves feels potentially risky (and slightly perplexing). The tracks are pleasurable enough in small doses, but when strung together as a complete collection, they become head-scratchers. As Foxygen’s guitarist and signature right-hand man– the Keith to France’s Mick, if you will– it still isn’t clear what kind of frontman Rado could potentially be. Throughout, his vocals range from charming (the pretty pop of “Faces”) to passable (“Oh, Suzanna!”) to positively grating (“Looking 4a Girl Like U”). Often, his voice is simply buried in effects, lost within the garage guitar clatter of “I Wood,” and others. Sounds may vary on Law and Order, but nothing prepares its listener for glossy, kitschy, synth-pop closing number “Pot of Gold.” Here, Rado adopts a slick 1980s pop star persona, crooning wildly over a bouncing drum beat and sailing guitar solo. Weird? Yes. Catchy? Sort of. Like a late-night text from a former flame, you’re exactly not sure how to feel about it.
Law and Order can’t match We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic in terms of polish and pacing, but like a true loner, Jonathan Rado has embarked upon a solo adventure while hitting several bumps along the way. He navigates some better than others, but like he suggests along the warped, wobbling melody that guides opener “Seven Horses,” “If you feel it all, clap your hands.” Let’s hope another Foxygen record isn’t too far away, but in the meantime, Jonathan Rado deserves at least a round of applause.