5 out of 5
Label: Suicide Squeeze
Produced by: Roger Seibel (mastered by)
Girls, Magic Magicians debut, was a brilliant, affecting ‘debut’ for 764-Hero’s John Atkins’ and Black Heart Procession’s Joe Plummer’s side project – a half hour of loose, shambling pop dedicated to all the strangeness Jon has felt between himself and that titular subject matter… It’s only poetic in the same gloomy sense as 764-Hero, and a step removed from that group’s Up Records Seattle sound made the record into something wonderfully weird and yet simple, and honest.
Some years passed. Jon’s core group had a slightly higher profile release with Nobody Knows This is Everywhere, sidling into catchiness when former albums had a bit of edge to them. This was my least favorite 764 disc, and I was curious what the future held, and perhaps a bit skeptical of what the second Magicians disc would thus be. In retrospect: for a dude who’d made most of career out of tracks which forged a fitful war between indie rock and pop, it made complete sense that his own response to something as ‘clean’ as Everywhere would be something so awesomely dirty and scuzzed up as this disc.
Abstracted even further from pop this time out, John tends to sing on (relative) key, but brings back in a bit of rage not heard since 764’s first EP, narrating about torrents of drink, about pills, about travels. Surreality blares over song climaxes in the form of horns or swells of keys, while Plummer’s drumming expertly hiccups between purposefully sloppy fills and sudden on-point beats. The disc feels both off the cuff and polished, and has a recording style to match, with the drums given a very cavernous, live sound, while the layers of vocals and instruments sound mixed and mastered.
John would later reinvent himself once more as The Can’t See, and was again in top form, though as his gentler self. The Magic Magicians’ second disc feels very of-the-moment of John’s career, but it’s also one of the purest and most powerful distillations of the two-man (or one guy, on girl) musical pairings he’s seemed to have preferred.