Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mrs. Magician
Strange Heaven
Swami [2012]

Certain recordings, whether they attempt to or not, are unable to shake their regional imprint; Mrs. Magician's Strange Heaven is unmistakably California from start to finish. Contemporaries like Japanese Motors and The Soft Pack also dabble in this type of sound, but Mrs. Magician (they’re actually four guys, what a subversive misdirect) have a slightly darker edge to their sound, due presumably in part to production from the legendary John Reis. His work with the Sultans isn’t a bad comparison to Strange Heaven either, but let’s not lose focus. The first three cuts (“Nightlife”, “There is No God”, and “Don’t Flatter Yourself”) are probably the best on the album, their energetic surf punk approach blends effortlessly with equal parts fuzz and reverb as they creep into the back of your mind, you WILL be humming them throughout the day. The same can’t be said for songs like “Dead 80’s”, “The Spells”, and “Actual Pain”, which are immediately forgettable, yet somehow don’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the record. “Heaven” comes off as a sort of reluctant ballad, an essentially successful experiment somewhere between Phil Spector and Spacemen 3. Closer “You Can’t Be My Man” has an odd guitar tone, reminiscent of the first Elastica album, which I really enjoy. Little touches like these are what rescue the bulk of the this record from obscurity. As for content, one line from the otherwise mediocre “Hours of the Night” tends to sum it up: “It says ‘fuck you’ on the note, but I sent you flowers”. It’s absolutely a collection of jilted love songs and expressions of the virtues/agonies of a solitary life, so in that respect Strange Heaven should connect with all of us post-emo sensitive types. Chances are, though its impending-sand-worm-from-Beetlejuice-attack-landscape cover is intriguing, I probably would not have picked up Strange Heaven if I didn’t get it for free. That would have been a mistake, and I’m glad its part of my collection. 

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