Music Reviews

Album Review: The Magic Gang – Death Of The Party

Joe Hughes

The Magic Gang return with their new album, Death of the Party– a triumphant and reflective pastiche which explores new genres with much success, but still remains true to their indie roots.

The band’s highly praised but often saccharine debut album- self-titled The Magic Gang and released in 2018- is noted for its characteristically steady, up-tempo musicality and generally optimistic lyrics. DOTP offers a more honest musical display of mixed emotions. Barring catchy hits ‘Getting Along’ and ‘How Can I Compete’, such was the steadiness of the rest of the band’s first album that one track is practically indistinguishable from the next. DOTP’s genre-hopping catalogue marks a refreshing development.

A more realistic and nuanced presentation of insecurity than the dreary idealism of their debut

An ethereal ‘Intro’ provides the perfect overture of big-band suspense to the explosive and excitable opening track ‘Think’. Loaded with 70’s Northern Soul influence, bassist Gus Taylor cites The Four Seasons’ ‘The Night’ as a particular inspiration for the first number- this reference is most clear in the brass heavy chorus.

Lyrically thoughtful and mellow track ‘Make A Sound’ is the first of two accounts of the same night at a New Year’s Eve house party. A bedroom-pop guitar line and occasional jagged string instrumental interludes give frontman Jack Kaye’s vision, of a carefree but fleeting evening of dancing, a heady, dreamy sound. The lyrics have it spot on, “the melody they play is so familiar”; an instant classic.

The brooding romance-rock of ‘Just a Minute’ continues the group’s pre-occupation with writing about anxieties in relationships, but is a more realistic and nuanced presentation of insecurity than the dreary idealism of their debut.

In ‘What Have You Got To Lose’, the pulsating bassline- which is pure New Order/Joy Division-  begins the detour into darker subject matter in the middle of the album. The bleakness discussed in the track, of “wasting a whole week away”, is broken by jarring guitar riffs and includes reference to drug treatment for mental health woes.

Title-track ‘Death of the Party’ provides a much more pessimistic and existential retelling of the New Year’s Eve celebration. Guitarist Kristian Smith’s cowboy persona is described as the ultimate party-pooper, “the life of the end”, encapsulating the feeling amongst the band members that their cheery youthful years are wearing thin.

It’s clear to see why this irresistible toe-tapping track was released as a single to advertise the album’s release

The album doesn’t languish in morbidity for too long as ‘Take Back the Track’ sees a return to the happy-go-lucky upbeat tunes which characterised the group’s early work, aided by the ceaseless groove of a Nile Rodger’s inspired guitar tone, which gives the number an appealing monotony. Dreamt up after requesting Sister Sledge’s ‘Pretty Baby’ on repeat at a birthday party, it’s clear to see why this irresistible toe-tapping track was released as a single to advertise the album’s release.

An overly breezy diversion, ‘I Am Sunshine’ has a tinny opening and resolves into a confusingly busy second half. This is the only real dud of an otherwise stunning album, but perhaps best showcases the group’s harmonic origins.

Driven by “power chords and soul”, ‘Gonna Bounce Back’ has an atmospheric, warm synth-fuzz (to coin a phrase) reminiscent of 80’s new wave band The Cars whom Kaye acknowledges as a tonal inspiration. It tells the story of a disheartened but not deterred young artist- perhaps a thinly-veiled metaphor for bandmembers’ struggle for the limelight.

From a plain opening, ‘Fail Better’ materialises as a retrospective ballad about the process of song-writing. A little droning in parts, the track nevertheless represents what The Magic Gang do best: easy- listening indie rock. To round off the main part of the album, ‘(The World) Outside My Door’ is an evocative melody which initially speaks of limitless horizons. It evokes an achingly bittersweet sensation, but this soon shifts. For a track whose title appears optimistic, the slightly ominous undertone deteriorates into a downright menacing cacophony which comes to an abrupt end.

‘Go Moving’ kicks off the tryptic of bonus tracks with a return to the group’s punchy pop form. Equally buoyant is ‘Make Time For Change’, as a vibrant brass sound carries through this head-banging track. Finally, paired-back tune ‘Out Of Mind’ is a masterclass in fragility as a delicate guitar and piano pairing draws it effortlessly to a close.

As they emerge into their new era of sophisticated song-writing, for The Magic Gang, the party’s only just begun

Rather than fade into the ever-smudging blur that is the indie music scene, The Magic Gang’s multi-faceted revival sets them apart from the crowded field. Despite being penned between the summer of 2018 and the spring of 2019 and recorded in Atlanta, DOTP has a striking relevance in the “abstract dread” that many have found themselves in this summer. The album stands on broad shoulders in terms of the breadth of influence it draws on; Kaye describes musical inspiration as “subconscious” and Taylor quips that “there is no music that is entirely brand new”.

With a strong cult following, rivalling slightly younger contemporaries Easy Life and Sports Team, but not yet with the widespread notoriety of Bombay Bicycle Club, the fourpiece seem to be cementing themselves as one of the more mature and established groups on the indie scene. As they emerge into their new era of sophisticated song-writing, for The Magic Gang, the party’s only just begun.

Joe Hughes

Featured image courtesy of The Magic Gang via Facebook. No changes made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @themagicgang via No changes made to these images.

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