Thursday, December 10, 2009
Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2009: Number 21
How clearly should one allow themselves to wear their direct influences on their sleeve? At first 4 Or 5 Magicians' debut comes across as a grab-bag of the coolest-for-schoolest of the US 90s underground - Pavement, Sebadoh, early Weezer, Guided By Voices, Pixies. But it's what you do with your chosen palette that matters, and what they've done is continue their shotgun marriage of radio ready melody with good old-fashioned loud, angular dissonance at a budgetary premium - recorded onto laptop with scrappy equipment for a two-figure sum, it says here. Then they play their trump card, Dan Ormsby's pin sharp lyrical acerbicity bordering on knowing cynicism. Look at that album title, for a start.
A lot of which, not unreasonably given we've just sold them on the basis of their record collections, is about the process of being an pro-am musician. Starting with a song called I'm In The Band followed by Forever On The Edge, a song about "wasting my time in a band, pinning all my hopes upon getting signed", with its natural bedfellow of "only scraping by, Tesco Value til I die", might be a very specific reference point but it doesn't show Ormsby up as someone chasing the commercialism dollar. That much is apparent in itself from the fashionista baiting of Preaching To The Conversed, a semi-petulant shout at the world that namechecks Alexa Chung, Ramones T-shirts and "Obama is your new Che Guevara". While this is no style over content affair - Behind Each Other's Backs sounds like the Marred-up Cribs should do - it's Ormsby's dismissively slanted worldview that puts the album well above the litany of other Slanted And Enchanted owning bands turning up and thrashing through. Is This Your Ideal Man? starts with fucked up guitar noise, then comes on like a close cousin to Bossanova Pixies with an explosive riff and the winning open line "he wouldn't say boo to a goose, but he would say cunt to a nun". Change The Record cauterises the state of radio but not so much in a "why aren't we...?" way as in the Elvis Costello Radio Radio mode for the Grimshaw age, finding time to bait and switch the listener with the aid of the album title. That's all a minature for the album's outlook, really, lo-fi underground rock attack plus self-regarding/self-dismissing lyrics equals noisy, listenable pop songs.
Change The Record (live)
The full list