The Magic Magicians is a side project composed primarily of John Atkins (764-Hero) and Joe Plummer (Black Heart Procession). They offer a somewhat different take on the guitar-and-drums duo dynamic than the Zep-heavy White Stripes and the white-boy blues of Black Keys by taking pieces of both of these bands and adding a whole lot more ’60s mod and ’90s indie rock.
“Cascade Express” and “West Coast Harbor” capture a mid-’60s Who, complete with swaggering R&B guitar, crashing chorus and strung out “oohs” and “ahhs.” Plummer is given the chance to shine on these tracks and breaks free of the plodding stomp mold with a Keith Moon drum-as-lead-instrument role. It’s nice to hear a duo like this, where at the very least there’s equality between both instruments.
“Mt. Decade” is pure Pavement with Atkins turning in a wide-mouthed and lazy vocal performance to compliment the lurching, atonal stops and starts riddled throughout the song. “8 Hours Go” is dark, sparse, intimate and guitarless with a muted Hammond organ stepping in to supply the melody against the stuttering, stumbling drums looking for a song to support. Its sad refrain of “now you know it all” could be about the band itself.
While it’s a pleasant surprise how well this album holds up considering the disparity between it and its two principle members’ full-time bands, I can foresee the Magic Magicians lacking room to innovate. Guitar and drums can only be joined together in so many ways before it all starts to sound the same, especially with so many bands doing it these days. It won’t break my heart if the band doesn’t release another album because I’ll have this one to listen to, along with both members’ superior full-time bands. That’s good enough for me.
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