When Franz Ferdinand were first making a name for themselves prior to the release of 'Take Me Out', someone I know who'd gone to see them told me he'd left after only a few songs as he'd found their music far too Eighties to sit through.
This person wouldn't last ten minutes in a Magic Bullets gig. The San Francisco five-piece, while not exactly Franz Ferdinand soundalikes, are definitely mining the same seam of influences, and this album (their second, following 2007's a CHILD but in life yet a DOCTOR in love) couldn't be more Eighties if every copy sold was hand-delivered by Christopher Lloyd in a time-travelling Delorean.
While the band claim their influences include 'everything from Wedding Present to Chic to Schubert', the resulting songs are clearly an attempt to emulate the artier end of indie music from 25 years ago – and they make a fairly good fist of it, in no small part thanks to the efforts of guitarist Corey Cunningham, who does a reasonably convincing impression of Johnny Marr on some of the better tracks here. Vocalist Philip Benson, meanwhile, would be a dead cert to win should he ever have a stab at 'Psycho Killer' on Stars in Their Eyes.
Despite this, the album is ultimately a bit of a bore. Having formed in 2004, Magic Bullets aren't a major name in the US and it would be mean-spirited to give this album a real kicking when one had no real expectations from it, but it's far from being triumph. While they take their cues from bands who remain well-loved to this day, they forget a few of the vital elements that made those bands so influential. While he clearly wouldn't mind being in The Smiths, Benson is certainly no Morrissey; his lyrics are uninspired and uninspiring, and while the band are reportedly an entertaining live act, any charisma the frontman has struggles to make itself felt on record. Moreover, and most problematically, there's a glaring absence of anything really decent or memorable among these 11 songs.
The album opens with a swell of feedback and distorted guitar, but it's a red herring – one presumably intended to cock a snook at the many Sonic Youth-aping hopefuls thrashing away in music scenes everywhere. The noise segues into opening track 'A Day Not So Far Off', a hopelessly polite three minutes of upbeat jangling and oddly irritating singing that comes together to sound more like an Ordinary Boys b-side than The Wedding Present or Orange Juice. Track two, 'They Wrote A Song About You', is far better, working as a genuinely convincing pastiche of Magic Bullets' influences. 'Along with On Top of the World', a fun, albeit forgettable, dalliance with Vampire Weekend-esque afrobeat, it's one of the album's high points
Elsewhere though Magic Bullets is a largely undistinguished affair – by no means offensive, just entirely unremarkable. The band clearly have talent, but they are seriously lacking in tunes.
5Adam Boult's Score