Foster the People – “Supermodel”

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Grade: C-

Key Tracks: “Coming of Age” “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon”

It must be tough to follow up on instant success. Pop rock group Foster the People’s first album, “Torches,” had the inescapable singles “Pumped Up Kicks” and “Helena Beat.” Sophomore albums are usually difficult anyways, even without following worldwide hits. “Supermodel” tries hard to deepen the band’s sound, but it ends up being a mess of empty songs that aren’t nearly as dark as they want to be.

Foster the People, led by chief songwriter Mark Foster, wanted “Supermodel” to be a concept album about the ugliness of consumerism and capitalism – relatively dark themes for a catchy alt-pop band. And that may end up being part of the problem. Take the songs purely on a musical standpoint, and all but one of them are catchy pop tunes (odd man out being “Goats In Trees,” a spoken-word-over-acoustic-guitar song). It’s simply tough to imagine any sort of believability when a band that plays commercially friendly and high-grossing music is singing about the horrors of commercialism.

The album’s other problem is tripping out of the starting gate. The first three songs – “Are You What You Want to Be?” “Ask Yourself” and leadoff single and admittedly great “Coming of Age” all tackle the exact same vague subject of self-discovery. There’s a thin line between having a consistent narrative arc and just repeating yourself, and they fall in the latter. Had the songs been split up or diversified, the whole album might be stronger – it just lacks any momentum to start.

Musically, the album is also a little lackluster. They traded in the unique synth rhythms of their two big hits for a more straightforward guitar approach. It was an attempt to sound a little heavier – but it’s quite the opposite. It’s lighter than before, especially the acoustic songs. Only the memorable “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon” kicks the volume up at all (and is then followed by the aforementioned acoustic “Goats in Trees”). Using all-too-familiar guitar rhythms does nothing to separate Foster the People from their counterparts. Think of them like an alt version of Katy Perry – one of the biggest names in their genre, but one of the most unoriginal. Sophomore albums are notoriously difficult, and Foster the People have fallen victim. “Supermodel” will please most fans of the band, but other listeners will likely be turned off by the album’s repetition, boring music and lack of pairing between music and lyrics.

If you like this, try: fellow alt-pop group Fitz and the Tantrum’s great sophomore album from last summer, “More Than Just a Dream.” They didn’t change anything, just focused on a consistent and catchy album that isn’t too repetitive.

-By Andrew McNally