I remember the first time I heard "Pumped Up Kicks" with it's laid back bass line and mini megaphone vocals. It is ear candy that quickly stupefies you into a sugar coma before the reverb washed chorus (seemingly about a mass shooting) has your head bopping like a mental patient. Something about this song while clearly catchy also sickened me. Every sound seemed like a contrivance influenced by bands like Gorillaz, MGMT, and Peter, Bjorn and John. It was like all the elements were there but it also felt absolutely devoid of any creative soul. It is the second track on Torches, the wildly popular debut album by Foster the People. Mark Foster is clearly the creative force having composed and written every song with the exception of "Miss You" which he co-wrote with Zach Heiligman and "Live on the Nickel" which he co-wrote with Paul Epsworth. The resulting Torches is an amalgam of hand claps, thick synths, kid sounds, dancy piano down beats, and more. It is mostly bright and upbeat. If Jamiroquai and MGMT had a baby and then the baby was dropped on it's head (sorry for that visual) it would sound like Foster The People. Unfortunately not many vocal or musical chops are on display and the writing is not particularly fresh or inspired. I did actually like "Waste"... that is until the bridge departed into MGMT land taking some melodies and chord progressions if not exactly from "Weekend Wars" but close enough in tone and texture to feel like a rip off.
While this album is not receiving super high praise, it has received very favorable acclaim from the likes of Rolling Stone, Pitchfork Media and others which is perplexing to me. Not since Good Charlotte's, The Young and the Hopeless which sold 4.9 million copies and who graced the cover of Rolling Stone in 2003, have I been so utterly jarred by what passes as good indie pop. Foster the People creates musical pablum that a lot of people eagerly eat up but I find so hard to swallow. It is not that Torches is not full of well produced songs, it is just that they are creatively shallow and, in the end, maybe there is something appealing about that. After all, in deep waters you have to be mindful of your surroundings, you have to tread water... you have to more or less know what you're doing but in the shallow break water you can simply goof around and just look good. Hell, you don't even have to get your hair wet.