Goodbye Waltz, Hello Blasphemous Chorus: Seattle’s alt country songsters discover retro rock and roll
A review of The Foghorns’ “To the Stars on the Wings of a Pig” by Ervin James Wheeler
In 2009, The Foghorns waltzed their way onto the Seattle scene with what sounded like a spectacular meltdown of woozy short stories set to jangly guitar. The band, who somehow made it to Seattle via Wisconsin, Brooklyn and Iceland, set sweet melodies behind the lines “Give me two more minutes before the truth... ah honey please put down the 80 proof.”
Blending genres like a high school kid blends drinks, Paul Constant of The Stranger described them as “definitely the best country band in Seattle that can also whip up a catchy synthesizer riff at a moment's notice.”
Where does a peripatetic tribe of misfits go from there? Surprisingly, away from country music.
Yes, The Foghorns, who cut out a niche doing literary country songs about the bittersweet moments in romance have moved on. Kind of.
Their new album, To the Stars..., begins as an almost continuation of A Diamond as Big as the Motel Six. “Please don’t you leave me now,” follows exactly from the above-quoted tune 80 Proof. And then comes the French. And a choir.
Suddenly the band is telling us naughty jokes. “Little girls, oh how they do protest, they roll their eyes and pray you see their little blessings” a choir sings, while an accordion drones.
The band compares an erection to the rising of Jesus Christ. Not just in a passing verse, but as a refrain: “Jesus died, and came back alive, and so has my tired dingaling.”
This is not country music. And these are not short stories. The Foghorns have dropped their storytelling for choruses and refrains. Gone are the waltzes, in favor of driving beats and overdriven electric guitars.
The result is a dynamic, utterly unique, strangely vintage sounding bar album. It sounds like something Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen might have done when they were young and amused.
For fans of The Foghorns, there is enough of the old style to pull you along, and there is the one bittersweet closer that encapsulates the A Diamond sound, Northern Lights. For those who thought of The Foghorns as a curiosity, or as holding down the country fort in Seattle, To the Stars on the Wings of a Pig is a very welcome contribution. A rock album that can hold its own with the best from around the country and from the last four decades.