If Tucson has a "Band of the Year" or "New Band of the Year" for 2016, there's no contest: The four-piece punk band Foxx Bodies is easily one of the most exciting musical prospects to come out of this city in years.
I first saw them perform in March, on the ground floor of the office and workspace of the since-reorganized specialty record manufacturer Lathe Cuts on Stone Avenue near downtown. I believe it was Foxx Bodies' third or fourth show. I came because I liked their name but from the size it was obvious many others were already clued in to their nascent greatness.
Foxx Bodies takes its cues from the first wave of '70s British punk and one of that movement's many offspring, '90s Riot Grrrl. Riot Grrrl merged primitive and visceral rock 'n' roll with feminist lyrics delivered with an intensity and honesty rarely heard in any of its parent genres. It was both a rebuttal of increasingly conservative white-boy dominance in the post-hardcore era of punk and indie rock and a natural outgrowth of the socially conscious youth cultures of northwestern towns like Portland and Olympia, Washington, where many Riot Grrrl groups were based.
Social upheavals in recent years have shone a light shown on, amongst other societal ills, the continued conservative white-boy dominance over too many people's lives. Combined with 20-year nostalgia cycles in music, a revival of Riot Grrrl makes sense on paper.
But the music of Foxx Bodies isn't that simple. Only the members of the band could tell you if they're bound to any socio-political concepts or decades-old offshoots of punk rock, but their nearly flawless self-titled debut album stands on its own. The songs are lean—often under two minutes long—and the instrumentation is sparse. Songs like "Passivity of Greetings" and the startlingly amazing "The Walk" are tethered by prickly, hollowed-out guitar lines and distorted, almost dubby rhythms. The difficulty in matching the sounds to the source material is part of the group's appeal and greatness: While there's a resemblance to the skeletons of certain sub-genres—the guitar initially mirrors '60s surf but the soul is something else entirely. Foxx Bodies take a thoroughly postmodern patchwork approach without ever descending into cheap musical pastiche.
The raw sculpture of the music sets a platform for singer Bella Vanek, alternately screaming and snarling, cooing and speaking, Vanek is a masterful and compelling vocalist, with a notebook of lyrics filled with everything from advertising slogans to stark confessionals.
One of the many arresting things at that early Foxx Bodies show was how the quartet seemed to arrive fully formed, playing with a confidence and purpose that bands take years to perfect. But then again, you either have "It" or you don't, and whatever that elusive "It" is—identity or innovation or some connection to a world that we can't know—this band has "It," and with what they've accomplished in less than a year, the possibilities of the next few seem infinitely interesting.
Go see Foxx Bodies this Saturday, Oct. 29 at the Fly Catcher.