Menu | Rating System | Guest Book
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
(Older reviews archived alphabetically by artist name.)

  Magic Bullets  
  Magic Bullets  
  Mon Amie Records  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:

Back when San Francisco band released their first full length album, A Child but in Life yet a Doctor in Love, we here in EvilSponge land fell in love with them. That album had a warmth and richness to it which was enhanced by the lovely bass riffs and jangly, tremolo laden guitars . It made quite an impression on me and I looked forward to future releases. But then, for a couple of years, we heard nothing from them. Then, in June 2010, Magic Bullets returned with a new record, a new label, and a somewhat changed lineup.

This new, self-titled record took me a bit by surprise on its first listen. There was a slight chill to the arrangements, which led me to think Magic Bullets had been influenced by fellow Bay Area band Film School. The jangly dreaminess of that first album had disappeared to my ears. I was taken aback and, subsequently, put the record away thinking I might come back to it at some point in the future.

Then, around Christmas 2010, I came back to Magic Bullets. And I found my opinion had changed in the intervening months.

From the first notes of the opening track, A Day Not So Far Off, I heard a spirited and focused sound that still had jangly guitars but was instead driven by some snare-focused drumming in combination with Philip Benson's somewhat mannered vocals. Still, the next track, They Wrote A Song About You, has a slower pace and a gentle chill that feels a bit like something from mid-era The Smiths, especially since Benson affects a Morrissey-like vocal style. Likewise, Pretend & Descend, despite its faster pace, combines the drumming an keyboards in a way that really demonstrates that Film School influence I heard on first listen.

But things pick up in a funky way with my favorite track on the record, Lying Around. Combining a syncopated guitar riff with a bouncing bass line, Benson's vocals return to the more emotive style found on previous releases. With its warm tremolo and reverb, this tune can't help but engender happily content response in the listener. Likewise, on Young Shoulders, Magic Bullets comes the closest to evoking a British New Wave sound ala The Housemartins with a bit more orchestral keyboard texture on top of its quick guitars.

While the basic dichotomy between the more spirited, quicker tunes and the slower, more deliberate song has basically been set in stone by this point, the remaining tracks on Magic Bullets still have different twists to offer the listeners. For instance, Red Room is a slow tune that has some lovely vocal harmonies and echoes which vaguely bring to mind My Latest Novel. In contrast, On Top of the World returns to the syncopation of Lying Around, albeit with a more deliberate cadence that acts as a counterpoint to the jangly guitars.

Towards the end of the record, the band presents Millions of People Running Around, which is the one tune of the record that harkens back to the first album, in particular Yesterday's Seen Better Days, which was such a charmer. Similarly, even though, China Beach is ostensibly a slowly melancholy tune, the lovely harmonies and the open space between the guitar work and the melodic bass gives it a richness and a warmth lacking in some of the earlier tunes. Finally, the record ends with Sigh the Day Away that returns again to the syncopated guitar, which is punctuated by crashing percussion that emphasize the beat. Over this, Benson uses the range of his voice to contrast the precision of the verses with the almost soaring chorus. Despite the relative deliberate pace of the tune, the difference in tones between the trebly guitar and the rich baritone vocals gives everything a little more fullness that you'd expect.

Sometimes you just have to walk away from an album when you're not feeling it. In this case, giving Magic Bullets a little time to age, if you will, allowed me to come back to with new ears and see how very solid it is as a record. Although it is deliberate at times and I still find the actual recording a little cold, I have to admit that the songs themselves as well as the band's music do hold up quite well and I've found myself charmed once again by Magic Bullets.

Related Links:

   Also on EvilSponge:
         Album: A Child But In Life Yet a Doctor In Love


Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Album Review menu.