Mrs Magician – Bermuda

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Mrs Magician – Bermuda

I was wondering exactly why it has taken Mrs Magician four years to release a follow-up to what was their first album Strange Heaven. Then I re-read the review of that album which I wrote for this online publication in May of 2012, reflected on the fact that I continue to rate their debut full length as one of the best albums, not merely of 2012, but of my entire writing career here at DOA, and considered that just perhaps, Strange Heaven had proved itself a tough act to follow for the San Diego surf-punk maestros.

You can find my review of Strange Heaven online here and most of its tracks on various social media sites, including the brilliantly warped animated video for album highlight “There Is No God”. Many other bands have given us their own reconfigured interpretations of the classic West Coast beach sound, but no other band I ever heard took those classic elements – the intricate guitar hooklines, the symphonic vocalising, the tunes that evoke long hot summer afternoons and longer, hotter nights – and put their own stamp onto them with so much controlled venom, sarcasm and downright malevolence as Mrs Magician, or made it all seem so effortless. Strange Heaven is, if you haven’t been fortunate enough to hear it, a classic of whichever genre it is that Mrs Magician inhabit.

Four years later, and no-one should expect the San Diego quintet to very accurately replicate their first album. Bermuda is a slightly darker, less ’60s-influenced album. The electronic intro to opening track “Phantoms” highlights this, although the actual song sounds reassuringly like the Mrs Magician of yore, with its furiously paced timings and blistering guitar riffs. “Eyes All Over Town” continues the theme of noir-ish and reverb-fuelled grimacing; “Don’t mess around / Cause I’ve got eyes all over town” runs the chorus, letting us know that, just as much as they’ve retained their instrumental grip that their skill with a lyrical motif hasn’t deserted them either. “Don’t Tell Me What To Do” isn’t a cover of a Standells b-side but a colourfully played pop tune with (again) a lyric that’s at odds with the soaring melody behind it, nearer to late ’70s power-pop than the surf sounds of the mid ’60s. “Jessica Slaughter” is the only song on Bermuda that could qualify as a ballad and a deeply unhappy tale of confusion and mistaken identity it is, while “No Action” is authentic garage-punk with the shades of both The Tubes and the 13th Floor Elevators lurking somewhere in the background.

As Bermuda draws to its close with “The Party’s Over” it seems only too soon. Mrs Magician know that their first album was a bona fide cult classic and that their own particular take on the whole West Coast thing has plenty of life in it yet. My enthusiasm for their first album wasn’t misplaced, and listening to Bermuda just reminds me that every now and again it’s useful to put the theorising to one side and just appreciate an album for exactly what it is. The party isn’t over yet for Mrs Magician, far from it.