splendid > reviews > 7/25/2003
The Magic Magicians
The Magic Magicians
Suicide Squeeze

Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "White Ash"

Buy me now
I've pretty much given up on finding another record that will change my life. It's not that I've lost faith in rock and roll or that I've become some cynical bastard; no, I think it has more to do with the fact that I just don't have the time to sit down with the lyric sheet and listen to an album all the way through for a week straight. I've been spoken to by more than enough artists, and while I won't mind if I do find another deeply affecting album from time to time, I'm really more interested in having something to rock out to -- something that makes my stereo shine with solid musicianship and competent arrangements. So here I am, listening to The Magic Magicians, and I'm perfectly happy. Without the burden of delivering some sort of quasi-spiritual experience, the Magicians' sophomore album does just fine -- nay, fantastic -- by me.

After hearing enough rock records, anyone knows that only one in a million bands will succeed in reinventing the wheel, and The Magic Magicians are one of the 999,999 other bands that exist within relatively well-established territory. With former 764-Hero frontman John Atkins lending vocals and guitar and Black Heart Procession percussionist Joe Plummer sitting in on drums, the duo has more indie cred than you can shake a stack of out-of-print seven inches at, but they play a simple, clean-cut game -- one that only concerns itself with hot guitar licks and addictive melodies. It's the stuff that a thousand indie rock records are made of, basted, breaded and cooked to perfection. Atkins's riffs recall everyone from Skynyrd to Modest Mouse to The Replacements, and Plummer pounds his drums like a madman to give the songs an additional helping of brute force. The music is dirty and the hooks do their job -- so far, so good.

Then you have Atkins's vocals, which come oh-so-close to conveying the yearning and confusion that Kurt Cobain and Jeremy Enigk could. In this way, the Magicians remind me a lot of those life-changing bands that I used to discover frequently, and while their music gives the appropriate aggressive complement to the vocals, the lyrics and general aesthetic remind me that this album is more about songwriting and small-scale hellraising than speaking to America's forlorn teenagers. Lo-fi production and a couple of songs that shouldn't have been ("Wet Pills" parts 1 and 2) show a band more interested in playing around with their ideas than making a statement. The results are far from obtuse, but the human, emotional aspect comes across solely in the passion of the music; the words are a bit empty and the record as a whole lacks cohesion, but these downfalls never get in the way of the rocking and rolling that the Atkins and Plummer do so well.

If the world of rock and roll is still fresh to you, and every album you get is a holy grail of new emotion and feeling, don't worry about The Magic Magicians -- they don't offer you much, and you probably won't get them anyway. But if you're on the lookout for biting indie rock with an intelligent balance of lo-fi sound and strident melody -- basically, yet another quality album to own and get reasonably acquainted with -- look no further than this.



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