Reviewed by Eugenia Vela.
Happy people freak me out. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a happy person—I’m all for skipping and holding hands with the boyfriend. I laugh at bad jokes. I can dance along to Hairspray on a really good day. But happy people, you know, those who never seem to be fazed by anything, who always believe things are gonna turn out O.K. and incessantly remind others to “look at the bright side,” these strangely positive, overly enthusiastic, happy people freak me out. And I’ve come to believe the reason they freak me out is that usually their positivity is so over the top it seems fake.
Magic Kids‘ debut album, Memphis (named after their home town), is an album for happy people. The band is clearly talented—they cross over an impressive range of styles and the collection reeks of Brian Wilson-esque influence. Memphis builds on the era of musical simplicity, with sugary lyrics yet instrumental intelligence, all the while remaining modern and progressive. But it all comes down to taste—and even though I appreciate what Magic Kids has put together, to me, the bouncy air transmitted through their music reaches an uncomfortable level of ’60s pop circa The Free Design.
What must be said about Memphis: It’s comical—in a good way. When first listening to the album, there’s almost a sense of satirical musical theater. Even when just looking at the track titles—“Candy”, “Summer”, “Skateland”—the charm in Magic Kids is in their ability to provide pictures of chocolate shakes with two straws, barbershop quartets and sunny afternoons rolling around in the grass, trying to recognize shapes in the clouds. Not many bands today would be fearless enough to take their listeners back to this time without worrying about not being rock n roll enough, without pretentious expectations of being different.
Magic Kids has the guts to make the music it wants to make. The fact that the band is made up of five young adult males definitely makes me want to see them live. I mean, are they for real? Memphis is so happy—summer and rainbows and bring on the unicorns!—that I can’t help but wonder: how real is this?
As a collection, this debut album, at this time, can be considered unique and undeniably smart. If Memphis was meant to be a nauseating bubblegum collection of joy, well, power to them. If Magic Kids are taking a jab at Brady Bunch music wonderland, they’ve created a beautiful batch of dark humorous music. A collection that cynics will smirk at and happy people—those strangely positive, overly enthusiastic, happy people that freak me out—will say it’s 100 percent real, no satire or jabs, and will eagerly bop, bop, bop their heads on their way to the malt shop.
Magic Kids | Memphis | True Panther Sounds | Release: August 24, 2010 | Rating: 5.5 of 10