Like the forbidden fruit, these Apples are tasty, fresh and filled with not-so-guilty...
Jerome Blakeney 2007
After a five-year lay-off, Robert Schneider, a man for whom mathematics and music seem to hold equal fascination, and his cohorts has returned with something that will both confound and delight fans. It’s an album that retains the love of 60s and 70s classic pop while eschewing the more lo-fi or experimental tropes of their Elephant 6 label origins in favour of whackiness and fun. Perplexing and paradoxical as this may sound on paper, it’s an equation that adds up.
Featuring a stellar cast of many of the band’s compatriots from E6 like Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel, Schneider and co. have assembled a patchwork of sunshine pop, delicate instrumental filigree and pure oddness. The format seems to be to put as much into the production values as possible - lush harmonies, sweeping Mellotrons and chiming guitars - while making the lyrical content as lightweight and, well… as meaningless as possible.
On most tracks this works beautifully. And why wouldn’t it? No one ever accused Brian Wilson and Tony Asher of profundity in their lyrics to Pet Sounds…Yet at times the deliberate banality can become a little too empty. Songs like “Can You Feel It?” (which manages to be both shouty and twee all at once) and “7 Stars” virtually disappear under their throwaway guises, detracting from what are actually finely wrought little gems.
But as a whole the album is literally a trip. Like all psychedelic classics the fill tracks are both quaint and offset any lightweight tendencies by their sheer exuberance and a sense of coherence. It makes New Magnetic Wonder an album which can be enjoyed as a whole piece or can be sampled as tiny slices of FM-friendly pop rock. Schneider even makes room for his beloved numbers in the titles of ''Non Pythagorean Composition Pts 1 &3''! The only real bummer is that drummer/singer Hilary Sidney (whose ''Sundial Song'' and ''Sunday Sounds'' are two highlights) has departed the band in the interim.
But like the forbidden fruit, these Apples are tasty, fresh and filled with not-so-guilty pleasures…