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Magic Kids Memphis Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Tennessee pop sprites prove more than just Beach Boys copyists.

Johnny Sharp 2010

If Brian Wilson received royalty payments every time a band listed The Beach Boys as an influence, he would probably be up there with Bill Gates on the global rich list. But while the sound of this Tennessee five-piece is hardly shimmering with originality, few have imitated those sunny falsettos and sweet’n’sad melodies quite so irresistibly.

Initially Magic Kids echo the wide-eyed, surf-soaked bliss of Wilson & co’s early 60s output, but once plunged into this throwback world it’s worth noticing your surroundings. Phone is short, sweet and innocent, but its psychedelic trills and Tijuana brass hint at something more fascinating afoot, then Candy’s ghostly girl group backing vocals lend it an extra atmospheric allure. Increasingly, you realise Magic Kids’ pop vision is way more widescreen than you initially anticipated.

Not only do these compositions brim with moreish pop hooks and sumptuous melodies, but they are dressed in Jack Nitzsche-style orchestral finery – everything from kettle drums to plucked violins and honking tubas – that could stir the hardest of hearts. Such film score dynamics turn a likeable enough collection of day-glo retro pop ditties into something truly beguiling.

Superball could have been a cutesy toytown indie-pop confection, but coupled with fluttering, joyous brass and ebullient synth it becomes something richer and stranger, as if Sufjan Stevens was wired to the armpits on Sunny D. Hey Boy, complete with schoolgirl choir, could be the theme from a great lost teen musical, while anyone dismissing them as a Beach Boys tribute act should listen more closely to the scattershot chord changes and spiralling melodies of Skateland and Little Red Radio, which throw up more than a sniff of The Flaming Lips’ sun-blushed strangeness. Elsewhere, the echoes of Scott Walker’s creamy melodrama on Hideout are surely no accident.

Besides all that, what’s not to like about a band that rhymes “Cruise around the Isle of Man” with “Workin’ on my tan”? Now, just keep away from that sandpit, chaps, and global stardom is surely yours for the taking.

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