It’s unclear how or why Foxygen—indie rock’s most notoriously acrimonious duo—is still together, especially after hearing their new record Seeing Other People. “Work” imagines a nasty argument between the two band members, and the jabs they lob at each other cut deep. “Face the Facts” recounts their failure to find stardom. “Livin’ a Lie” details singer Sam France’s disdain towards the name-dropping ingratiators he perhaps finds on tour. By the end, they’ve concluded they’re “seeing other people,” which is curious; the band has no intention of breaking up. Maybe it’s band-breakup-album as pastiche. France consistently uses the dated term “rock ’n’ roll” to place the grievances of an indie band within the storied tradition of road-warrior woes.

Foxygen is one of indie rock’s more reverent bands. 2014’s …And Star Power imagined a hypothetical third Todd Rundgren masterpiece, while 2017’s Hang paid tribute to the big-budget orchestral rock punk rebelled against. Seeing Other People might work if they ripped from something like Let It Be or Neil Young’s ditch albums, but they’re pulling willy-nilly from the past without apparent rhyme or reason. “Mona” resembles any indie band this decade that treats New Order’s “Age of Consent” as a sacred text. “Livin’ a Lie” is Elvis Costello. “The Truth Is” is Springsteen (they actually had to edit it to make it less Springsteenian). “The Conclusion” sounds like Sly Stone, specifically the dark funk of There’s A Riot Goin’ On. Why is beyond me.

The best track here is “Flag at Half Mast” because we understand why France is using Mick Jagger. The Stones’ most wounded music, especially on Exile on Main Street, sounds like they’re hanging onto something unsustainable—appropriate for wasting away in a French castle, shooting up and running from the taxman. Because the pastiche makes thematic sense, it’s the only song where Foxygen’s snarky referential streak and their new vérité sensibility catch a spark together. France’s vocal performance is wrenching, though a line like “she ain’t got any notion of who I am/she surely don’t listen to Foxygen” does deflate some of the song’s goodwill.

There’s a lot of this on Seeing Other People, and the band’s bad temper is more irritating than enlightening. They seem not to give much of a shit how people see them, or perhaps they’re aware that as an indie rock band they’ve welcomed criticism from the music webverse’s more scathing corners. One of their more famous lyrics is “I’m on some post-Ezra Koenig fuckin’ North Face bullshit,” from loosie “24 Hour Lover Man.” I respect artists who write honestly about life as an artist, but this astute, half-gloating self-awareness of their place in indie rock comes close to an admission that “we’re jerks, get used to it.” Nothing but trollishness can explain a line like “I’m never gonna dance like James Brown/I’m never gonna be black.” Maybe they were aware that after listening I’d immediately fumble for the play button on There’s A Riot Goin’ On.

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