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Magic Kids - Memphis

This summery, instrument-rich record almost manages to out Beach Boy the Beach Boys themselves.

If you transported the Beach Boys from the early ‘60s to the present day, their sound might not quite fit the moment. After all, a lot’s happened between then and now - you know, serious stuff like global warming, the internet, George Bush and Jedward - which might make their particular brand of carefree innocence seem more naive than charming.

So it’s interesting to hear ‘Memphis’, the debut album from Magic Kids, a five-piece from, er, Memphis, Tennessee. This summery, instrument-rich record almost manages to out Beach Boy the Beach Boys themselves.

Once you get over the bizarre inclusion of what sounds like sleigh bells at the start of perky opener ‘Phone’, you could be on a Surfin’ Safari in 1962. Much of the album follows similar lines: with blissful harmonic vocals, keyboards, guitars, strings and what sounds like most of an orchestra, mixing it must’ve been a challenge.

Unfortunately, all those layers don’t add up to much depth. Rather than plunge into the sound, you tend to skim over the surface, at once revelling in the catchiness of tracks like ‘Good To Be’ but never managing to get beyond it. That’s fine at first listen, but doesn’t leave you gasping for a second go.

The best song of the lot is ‘Hey Boy’. Its school choir-like opening, delicate chimes and proper ooooh-ooooh backing track put a smile on your face. It even produces one of the album’s brief moments of suspense, stripping everything back to a single drum and guitar, before launching back into the operatic chorus.

But ‘Candy’, the album’s second track, sums up the whole record best. It makes up for clichéd lyrics with beautiful female backing vocals, but at the very moment the interesting horns and strings start to build to something, it all collapses and fades to nothing. Shame.

It’s a bit like drinking too much of a fizzy drink. You’re satisfied immediately, yet minutes later you have a weird coating on your teeth and are craving something either plainer or more grown up.

It’s not that this is a bad album. Some of these songs would fit that mid-afternoon three-pint moment at a sunny Glastonbury perfectly. And if we were driving down the Californian coast in an open-top car, we’d put this CD on as soon as we’d exhausted the Beach Boys’ back catalogue.

And therein lies the real problem. With the Beach Boys only a Spotify search away, it’s hard to see what more Magic Kids offer. After two minutes you’ll like this record. But after twenty, you’ll be losing interest. Some extra darkness and cynicism would go a long way towards changing that. In the meantime, where did we put that surfboard?

Tags: Magic Kids, Reviews, Album Reviews

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