Sitting somewhere between the orchestral chamber pop roots of Randy Newman and the melted soundscapes of Ween, each song on Love Axe’s new full-length THE FOOD creates its own unique atmosphere. “This is a record for the desperate weirdo in everyone,” songwriter Chris Hatfield (Those Transatlantics) says. Embracing pop in a more ravenous way than before, the songwriting envelops the Stevie Wonder through a smartphone funk of Unknown Mortal Orchestra on opener “Do The Transform,” and standout single “Give Me A Kiss.” The soaring aughts-pop crunch of “Black Out The Sun” hearkens back to the guitar and heartbreak-soaked South Dakota days, giving the album a solid grip to launch itself into unfamiliar waters. The record is shot through with power pop careen (“Parasite,” “Armageddon Stuff”) and dance floor oblivion (“I Can Find You,”) before finding a bittersweet ache on “Do What You Want To” and “Sympathy,” bringing to mind the effortless pop immediacy of Jenny Lewis.
Conceived and recorded over a period of five years in LA’s Frogtown neighborhood, THE FOOD was originally intended to be a country album. “I started the record with this one shitkicker of a song that kept getting pushed back by the next one I’d write,” says Hatfield. “Eventually, nothing started making sense until I surrendered to my true motivations,” which, along with the usual components of fear and loathing, was “anything that felt significantly deranged enough compared to the last record. The result is a genre-destroying, technicolor achievement fueled by undeniable grooves and alternative-universe pop songwriting.
The album also sees contributions from both erstwhile and new collaborators, including original Love Axe drummer Heath Johnson and bassist/vocalist Joelle Barrios, drummer Amber Barnard and multi-instrumentalist Todd Boepple, and on “Think”, the album’s pop triumph centerpiece, a collaboration with fun.’s Grammy-winning chameleon Andrew Dost. The communal feel of the record embraces and encourages its eclectic nature. THE FOOD swings in all directions, inhabiting a charmingly sincere wrecking ball with enough momentum for the desperate, inner weirdo in each of us.