Saturday, October 15, 2005

86. The Magic Numbers - The Magic Numbers (2005)

Very few things in life can sustain the same level of excitement from beginning to end, and The Magic Numbers' debut album is no exception. Like a party that's loud, full and hoppin' from the get-go and then eventually dwindles down to a quiet few, the CD makes its statement early and then fades away.

Mornings Eleven is a helluva opener. It consists of two separate sections; the first makes you want to shake your ass, the second makes you want to swoon. Going from country-rock boogie to '50s doo-wop harmony, the two movements spend the song alternating back and forth, and it's effective enough to make the 5-and-a-half minute running time seem too short.

As the album continues that becomes a recurring theme. The songs are long, but rarely overstay their welcome. That's a tribute to Romeo Stodart's compositions, but another factor may be that the group consists of two sets of brothers and sisters (the Allman Brothers would be proud). I believe that familial synergy adds a bit of, well, magic to the arrangements.

Second song Forever Lost at first seems like your typical uptempo '60s style British Invasion stomper, and then around the two minute mark it gets all introspective and anthemic, building to a very satisfying crescendo before returning to the familiar territory of the beginning, just a bit more weary. The Mule manages to conjure up a hypnotic power without being a standout track, melodically or lyrically. Long Legs shimmies and shakes like a Partridge Family classic; it's a multi-colored bus that runs on skipping guitar, tambourine and handclaps. The you're-better-than-the-one-I'm-with theme Love Me Like You continues that vibe, encapsulates everything that's great about the first four songs, and brings it all to a peak. You might feel a little exhausted after listening to it.

And honestly, the album never fully recovers its stamina after delivering this 1-2-3-4-5 punch. Which Way To Happy is meditative and rootsy. I See You, You See Me is a (bitter)sweet duet that opens up into a counterpoint expression of devotion in the bridge. The countryish plea Don't Give Up The Fight is the last gasp before the last five songs blur into a (mostly) delicate and mellow coda. None of them are bad (though Hymn For Her is a terrible title), they just don't match the level of quality set in the beginning of the record.

But I suppose The Magic Numbers can be forgiven for that. Any band that can manage to generate as much excitement as they do at the start of their debut, and manage to sound like The New Pornographers if Pete Droge handled the lead vocals in the process, deserves props. Ultimately, we should be happy for the joy they've given us, and not rue its departure. And even the best party can't last all night.

Grade: B-
Fave Song: Love Me Like You