What if Black Lips were from California, instead of Georgia? I know that I’m leaving myself open to accusations of lazy journalism and that the comparison is a bit of a superficial one but there isn’t any getting away from what was my first and abiding impression of Mrs Magician and their debut album. They trawl similar depths to the Atlanta band, utilise similar methods and structures in their music and while they don’t really sound very similar, Mrs Magician do sound like the same type of band as the creators of 200 Million Thousand.
This isn’t, as you might discover, a very bad thing. If Black Lips are taking the burnt-out rooftop romanticism of Johnny Thunders and channelling it through a half dozen rusted effects pedals (which is what I thought 200 Million Thousand sounded like) then Mrs Magician are doing something very similar to the legacy of Brian Wilson, alongside excursions into 60s garage punk, bewildering dreampop hallucinations, powersurging rock n roll escapades, and the result is thirteen tracks of retro fuelled guitar excess that barely stops to take breath throughout its 32 or so minutes.
My music player messed up the track listing and starts the album with “Dead 80s”, which has some traditional sounding boy meets girl lyrics and also a notable mid sixties influence – its keyboard riff can probably trace its lineage right back to the Seeds and ? And The Mysterians – and that’s what Mrs Magician really are, a no holds barred beat group whose West Coast origins imbue them with unrestrained surf pop sensibilities and “Don’t Flatter Yourself” could slip onto the soundtrack of some beach musical of five decades ago practically unnoticed. The same could not be said of “Actual Pain” which thumps out of my stereo like Mrs Magician’s sometime labelmates Crime covering a Jan And Dean number in an SF waterfront dive at some long forgotten after hours gig in the late 70s while “Prescription Vision” is summery psyche pop distorted almost beyond recognition.
What holds Strange Heaven together is Mrs Magician’s tightly scored musicianship, which accurately recalls the suited up and reverberating guitar epics of the Surfaris, Dick Dale and countless others, and I hope if any of the band read this they’ll forgive my making a blatant comparison with Black Lips, whom they don’t really resemble very much aside from their retro obsessions and string shredding guitar performances. This summer, don’t just think about going surfing, listen to Strange Heaven instead.