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Much Ado About

  Magic Bullets  

Mon Amie Records

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When last we left San Francisco band Magic Bullets in early 2011, they had recently released a second, self-titled album. Influenced by various 80s British New Wave and Independent bands, over the course of their career, this group had a rich, lush should filled with jangly, tremolo-laden guitarwork, bouncy rhythms, and Andrew Benson's somewhat-mannered but appropriate baritone vocals. In the intervening time, Magic Bullets has disbanded. However, after the official announcement, the band released one last EP, Much Ado About, as a farewell gesture.

Much Ado About begins with Unlearned, a shimmering, slowly-paced piece of jangle-pop. Benson's voice is out in front of the lightly echoed guitarwork. It's a fairly laconic piece, with the bass work bouncy, but low in the mix and Benson's vocals very British-esque in its phrasing and tone. However, roughly half through the song, the song becomes slightly more intense as the organ and drums becomes a bit more insistent. It's a nicely done tune, but perhaps not as fully developed as some of the material found back on Magic Bullets. From there, things pick up with Time and Again, which still has a light tone, albeit one with more speed and a nicely mirrored synchronicity between the high-pitched guitar and much lower bass. Even though the tune feels bit fluffy, it has a nice dancey bop, which belies the ephemeral nature of the song.

Things then get a wee bit funky with Common House Cats. There's a simple bass-driven melody backed by an insistence organ bit. Over this, Benson dials back some of his more mannered vocal tricks and sings this one in a straight-up manner. In fact, if it weren't for his instantly-recognizable voice, I'd think this was a unreleased track from Dominant Legs, a band formed by one of Magic Bullets' guitarists, Ryan Lynch. It has the same kind of feel. After Common House Cats comes Awful, which seems to be a very Smiths meets The Dream Academy kind of track, filled with Johnny Marr-esque guitars and Morrissey-like phrasing that combined with some Life in a Northern Town type chilliness.

The best track of the EP shows up next. What Took You So Long has very 60s Motown influence, complete with a Supremes style bassline and drums which are heavy on the tom. Like much of the other music on Much Ado About, the production seems minimal. However, in this case, this minimalist style works in the context of the song, which is filled with shimmering warmth as it invokes a retro-summertime feel. It's a lovely little tune, that perhaps should have been the final "good-bye" of the records, since it's so very upbeat.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, What Took You So Long is followed by two songs that are different from anything else Magic Bullets have ever released. No Longer There is a slow track with only a simply-picked guitar to back the echoed harmonized vocals. It's a slow, mournful tune that gradually fills the empty space with restrained bass and organ as it comes to its conclusion. The EP then finishes with If You Touch Her, which is much more upbeat in its music, if not its tone. While this song has much of the same inherent poppiness as the previous track, the production on this track feels out of place. Whereas all of the previous tunes sounded very lofi in their mix, the sound on If You Touch Her is just louder and the instrumentation is less sparse. This song is more R.E.M. and less Housemartins than anything else I've heard by Magic Bullets. That's not to say it isn't enjoyable, but rather it just feels out of place and is a fairly mellow way to end a farewell EP.

While I have some quibbles with the structure and recording of Much Ado About, I still have to say I find Magic Bullets' music fun and enjoyable. And unlike many groups that break up, it's really nice that they took the time to finalize and release their last batch of extant songs. Having said that, it's clear that these tunes were not fully-developed prior to recording, which suggest that had the band had the time to restructure and relook at certain songs, this would have been an even better farewell than it actually is. Either way, it's sad that Magic Bullets are gone, as they definitely contributed something good to my musical landscape for the last few years.

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         Album: Magic Bullets


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