The Magic Gang: the Magic Gang review – amiably harmonic, lovelorn indie

Devoid of edge and posturing … the Magic Gang.
Devoid of edge and posturing … the Magic Gang. Photograph: Dan Kendall

The last time major labels were signing amiable, jangly indie bands came in the aftermath of Creation Records’s dissolution, when Columbia Records attempted to turn Teenage Fanclub’s Britpop-adjacent success into hot cash.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t work, and the two parties amicably parted ways.

Which makes the Magic Gang’s debut even more surprising. At a time when guitar bands have fallen out of favour, it’s a pleasant surprise that Warner Bros would sign one that’s admirably devoid of edge and the kind of rock posturing that usually excites A&Rs with budgets to burn.

The Magic Gang are a Brighton four-piece apparently weaned on Norman Blake’s aforementioned group, Weezer, the Beach Boys, the Beatles and the recently departed London duo Ultimate Painting. Their songs breeze along idly, their amiable guitar-playing tethered by enough craftsmanship to stop things slipping into tedious slackerdom, and enlivened by the band’s keen ear for texture: fuzz is judiciously deployed, and solos unfold with the effortless grace of a skateboarder grinding along a rail. Open chords chime with optimism; their hooky choruses are as indelible as a pier-end neon sign flashing in the night sky.

In fact, girls appear to be the album’s primary subject matter, as the band collectively try to make sense of a relationship that’s going off the rails. “I realise that we’ll survive together / ’Cause you and I could compromise for ever”, they sing on All This Way. I’ll Show You, one of a couple of endearingly shambolic piano ballads in debt to Jon Brion, features lyrics as deft as any Taylor Swift kiss-off: “We’ll pretend I never ever met you – though I met you.” As love slips away, their harmonies become faintly hysterical, almost desperate, adding a welcome human touch of agitation to an otherwise preternaturally chilled and charming debut.

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