here’s that scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta’s character shoots up and the camera goes into a tight shot on the syringe. You know the one right? Where the heroin is going out and the blood pushes into the vial like a cloudburst? Well, if that frame were music, it would be this album.
No, the Magnificents aren’t junkies. They just make music that’s the ideal meld of the organic and the foreign, not to mention the perfect blend of dirty fun. Part of the ‘art rock’ revolution currently kicking out the jams in Scotland, this art school quartet’s weapon of choice is late 70s/80s electro-clash synth-bop. Imagine if the Faint learned to actually play their instruments or if Fad Gadget had lightened the hell up, and you would have these new-wave funsters ready to whip you up into a frothy synthetic frenzy with just enough full-on boy-funk posturing to make you yank on a black suit and skinny tie.
While it would be dead easy to pigeonhole this into that whole NYC retro scene, you really shouldn’t. Because what separates it and makes it work is that it’s fucking FUN. Bouncy, peppy and rocking—you could happily pogo yourself into an aneurysm listening to this. Opening with a de-rigueur roboto-vocals chant of “Be the Magnificents! This is the Magnificents!”, the opener quickly bottle-rockets into a gorgeous filth of NYC bowery-riffage to get our roofie-rave started right. ‘Last Gasp Of Revenge’s uh, uh, uh keyboards sound like a subway train coming to slice through that ice-cold drum beat, but it’s the couplet of “The last gasp of revenge/ And this sound is gonna haemorrhage” which makes the second track shine. Getting revenge to rhyme with haemorrhage? How could you not want to buy this album?
Yeah, occasionally it gets a touch goth bat cave on tracks like ‘The Russia Disco’, whose lyrics don’t do it any favours “and it all breaks down at the Russian disco” (if one more person complains about that phenomenon!) and ‘Ex-Airport’ treads just that little bit too much into serious art rocker importance: stacco-singing, Ultravox-esque sweeping whirs and chucking around the word “spectres” like it’s something to shout about. But it is forgivable when working in this genre, because you can’t help but fall into those bear-traps. Why it would be like retro-rockers not doing the Mick Jagger pursed lip mewl—it just can’t be avoided.
But closing shot ‘This Is The Magnificents’ is truly remarkable. Starting out with an expected keyboard-whoosh, it gradually builds into a fleshed-out orchestral trance-piece only to then turn itself around with a late 70s full-on soul-rock preach of “are we going to soil these kids?”, then crescendos into an feedback-wig-out. It sounds like a youth anthem worthy of any John Hughes 1980s flick. And that is saying something. Saying something magnificent.
Reviewed by: Lisa Oliver
Reviewed on: 2004-02-13