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  A Child But In Life Yet a Doctor In Love  
  Magic Bullets  
  Words on Music  
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Formed in 2004, San Francisco's Magic Bullets were one of the highlights of SxSW 2008 for me. We originally went to see them because we had received a copy of the first album, A Child But In Life Yet a Doctor In Love in the mail, and PostLibyan thought they sounded a bit like the late Atlanta band American Dream. With this as a recommendation, we caught this six piece not only once but twice at SxSW, where they put on two excellent sets. Upon returning to Atlanta, I obtained my own copy of the album, which is itself good enough that it hasn't yet left my record listening rotation.

Beginning with the highlight of the record, Yesterday's Seen Better Days, the album begins with a jangly, tremolo-laden guitar riff over which vocalist Philip Benson sings/emotes in a way which recalls any number of British post-punk/new wave bands of the 80s. At the end of the first verse, the entire band kicks in, rounding out the song with additional guitar work and keyboards. The rhythm section provides an alternate melody, with some bouncy bass work and brisk drumming, which propels things more quickly than Benson's languid voice might allow. It's a rich, warm tune, which is enhanced by the chanted backing vocals on the chorus and provides a good overview of Magic Bullets' hooky, danceable tunes .

From there, the band moves on to Heatwave, a quickly paced tune which combines lovely mid-range guitar work with higher-pitched keys to give the band a particularly full sound so that the vocals aren't too dominant in the mix. Likewise, the next song, Lay Low features a more prominent low end, with tom-heavy drums and the guitar and bass mirroring each other on the melody. Yet, the song maintains Magic Bullets' inherent musical catchiness.

After this, the band launches into Will Scarlet, which is another of my favorite tunes on the record. Unlike the previous songs, the band separates out its musical parts with the guitar working in a high register in opposition to the intricate bass parts, leaving the mid-space remarkably absent. I've heard this song described as being similar to something by Gang of Four, or the like, but I can't say that I hear it. Rather, a band like The Aislers Set (with less distortion and more energy) springs to mind.

The band changes gears with Short Circuit, a slow, early 60s prom-esque lament. But the band returns to form with Circumstances, which like Yesterday's Seen Better Days, begins with a chorused guitar and vocals before the full band kicks in, albeit in a quieter, more dream-like form. This has the effect of making the vocals (and indeed the entire song) seem more mournful that the quick pace would indicate. Things flow almost immediately into New Kicks, which begins with a high pitched key part over a Motown-y bass line. Musically, it's a bit reminiscent of All Your Summer Songs-era Saturday Looks Good to Me, although Benson's vocals pull the song back into a Britpoppy sound.

The Motown bass continues on Tender Throes, only this time the syncopation and melody are echoed by both the drums and guitar. Therefore, the sliding arpeggios of the keys seem more prominent than any other time on the record. Then, at the end of the tune, the band breaks apart as the guitars become spacey and distorted and overwhelm (in a good way) the rest of the mix as the song ends. The Saturday Look Good to Me point of reference recurs on Spilled Milk, a tune complete with lower backing vocals than almost sound like they could be the bass rhythm. The album finishes up with Spent Nights, a song which begins with a nice keyboard melody which contrasts with a different guitar melody over what sounds like sleigh bells. Gradually, the rest of the band comes in, filling out the rest of song to create a languid, almost dream-like state. It's a rich, full conclusion to the record, where the last song is almost as good as the first.

A Child But In Life Yet a Doctor in Love is certainly what our European reviewers would call a "grower". Even though the first tune grabbed me at the beginning, it took me a little while to appreciate the consistency and musicality of the disk as a whole. Nevertheless, as my enjoyment of the record continued to increase, I began to play it for several friends. And, unlike some of the records I play, they all liked this well enough to go out and purchase it for themselves. I encourage you to do the same.

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