Foster The People – Torches (2011): Review

Hack Stats

Q Magazine – 8
Music OMH – 8
BBC Music – 8
NME – 7
Drowned In Sound – 6
The Fly – 6
The Hackskeptic – 5
The Guardian – 4

Average Rating – 6.5/10

Like it or loathe it, “Pumped Up Kicks” by this L.A. synth pop trio has been the relentless radio hit of summer 2011, with snatches of a killing spree fantasy invading virtually every TV show, sports clip and advertising campaign. Opportunistically, whilst MGMT lick their wounds following the less than well received “Congratulations”, the band have stepped into the aural consciousness of anyone who was swept along in the tide of “Time To Pretend” and a pop sound that’s an alternative to the formularized canker that fills the charts. “Torches” is an album full of summer hooks, splashes of SoCal harmonies, and sadly, a great deal of disposable empty gesturing that evokes nothing more than a passing interest. In a previous life, lead singer and songwriter Mark Foster spent his time creating snappy radio jingles, so he’s well versed in capturing the listener’s attention in a 30 second time frame, but a whole collection of hollow product placement soundtracks becomes a tiresome prospect, and essentially this is what drives the relative disappointment of “Torches”. It potentially fills your world for a sunny weekend, and then drifts limply into the nether regions of your listening catalogue, alongside old Maroon 5 albums.

If nothing else, Foster The People know their market, and the strategically placed “hits” pile up for a top heavy start. “Helena Beat”, carries many similarities to MGMT’s “Electric Feel”, with shining synth melodies and Foster’s sweet falsetto, it’s the song that has the longest lasting resonance. “Pumped Up Kicks” needs no introduction, and as lead off singles go, one has to admire its simplicity in highlighting a killer chorus. The rest is palatable muzak, neither refreshing or original; saccharine melodies, meaningless lyrics, and a shallow emptiness that’s hard to defend. Whilst many will compare and contrast the sound with Passion Pit and MGMT, one feels that “Torches” is too chart calculated to be included with the music of two bands that are well known for their kooky alternative creativity.

“Torches” is all hooks and no bait, and shows how well one strong single can never hide the overall disappointment for a collection of mildly marketable clichés.


Track By Track Rating

1 – Helena Beat 7

2 – Pumped Up Kicks 7
3 – Call It What You Want 5

4 – Don’t Stop (Color On The Walls) 6
5 – Waste 4

6 – I Would Do Anything For You 5
7 – Houdini 6
8 – Life On The Nickel 5
9 – Miss You 5
10 – Warrant 5


2 responses to “Foster The People – Torches (2011): Review

  1. Having heard “Pumped Up Kicks” on the radio for the first time in a long while last week (Jan 2013), I too recall the warm fondness I felt for the first 60 seconds of this song, with – to their credit – the catchy “Beach Boy” style double-tracked guitar and bass riff and the soaring chorus. It evoked such pleasant memories that I was persuaded to part with 99p for the iTunes single. Needless and sadly to say, after listening to a couple of what can only be described as ordinary-at-best album fillers, I sunk back into my safety net of Rod Stewart & The Faces. I’m sure one day there will be a modern day band that I really enjoy, they just have to find me!

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