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