Like a Fox Where’s My Golden Arm?

[Transit of Venus; 2008]

Rating: 1.5/5

Styles: psychedelic pop, indie pop-rock
Others: Figurines, The Essex Green, The Starlight Mints

Philadelphia pop group Like a Fox start Where’s My Golden Arm? with a total fake-out: bandleader Jay Laughlin delivers a single lyric, “Happiness,” with an inflection identical to John Lennon’s in the White Album’s “Happiness is a Warm Gun.” It’s a strange moment, but it turns out to be a bellwether for a general déjà vu that infects the whole record. On this first song (“The Feeling that Launched a Thousand Wars”), the band even runs Laughlin’s vocals through that old-timey “telephone” filter to amplify the punchiness of the inevitable moment when the rest of the band kicks in — I swear I’ve heard this one before.

But if Where’s My Golden Arm? fails to strike original ground, it’s not for lack of hooks. The exceedingly bubbly “Night Person” is maddeningly catchy, and “Time Stands Still” has a great central riff. But beneath the layers of burbling keyboards and electronic flourishes that dress up the record is a collection of bubblegum songs so light that they fail to stick. Like a Fox’s contemporaries have resorted to some extreme means to give their records staying power — The Flaming Lips’ kitchen-sink production and high-concept psychedelic storylines, Beulah’s unadorned ultra-catchiness — but Where’s My Golden Arm? lacks songs solid enough to make the concoction stand up on its own merits. Instead of building on their touchstones, Like a Fox left me just wanting to listen to the original acts. Call it frosting without the cake.

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