It’s probably inevitable, but a bit gloomy nonetheless, that as I’ve edged further into my twenties, and as I begin to lurch ever more rapidly towards their conclusion, my tolerance for anything even remotely youthful-sounding has waned significantly. This presents something of a quandary when it comes to attempting to critically appraise Memphis, the debut album by Magic Kids, because youthfulness is something which positively oozes out of every pore of the record. I must soldier on, though, because it really isn’t their fault that I’m seethingly envious that they retain the lustre which deserted me long ago. Who knows, maybe a little vicarious burst of vitality will do me some good.
One thing which will become abundantly clear from even the most cursory of listens to Memphis is that this is a record which nakedly displays its influences. The spectre of Sixties pop hangs heavy in the air, with the Beach Boys being the most blatant of reference points. This is immediately evident on opening song ‘Phone’ which gleefully raids Brian Wilson’s box of tricks, pulling out some of his best harmonies along with his well-thumbed juxtaposition of the headrush and yearnings of young love. The Beach Boys influence goes on to pop its head above the parapet sporadically throughout the rest of the record, and is supplemented by occasional bursts of Spector’s girl bands (‘Hey Boy’), and glimpses of a perkier version of baroque pop (‘Superball’).
While Magic Kids’ magpie-like tendencies are pretty barefaced, more often than not they get away with it because they pilfer more than just a sound from their idols; they also display the faultless attention to detail of classic pop music, meaning that the hero-worship never grates. It might all feel a little lightweight, but there’s no question that the songs are gorgeously well-crafted, making the intricate appear simple, something which is underlined by a straightforward, unfussy production which makes the album feel quite timeless, regardless of the fact that its roots are planted firmly in the 1960s.
Clearly Memphis is a summer record. This could, of course, present a bit of a potential problem for those of us dwelling in parts of the world where summer is but a myth. Fortunately, though, it is an album which doesn’t need a supportive environment, because it is bold enough and evocative enough to create a sunny climate entirely on its own. It is rich in things which make it easy to like, but undoubtedly, the most agreeable thing about it is the seemingly endless surge of happiness on which it is carried, which is so infectious and authentic that even a prematurely aged curmudgeon like me can do little to avoid being swept along with the tide. You probably wouldn’t expect Magic Kids to realistically be able to make more than two or three records with this blueprint, but frankly that isn’t something for us to think about right now. All that really matters for the moment is that their debut album is an unqualified success, a concise and perfectly-presented collection of first-class pop music.
8Paul Brown's Score