Yes, this is 40.

March 23, 2013


The Yes Album (1971 Atlantic)

I recently turned 40. Honestly, it arrived like any other day. The same things that brought joy to my life prior to this milestone still plastered a grin on my life the day after. My son still wanted to skateboard around the living room like a tazmanian devil and I continued my nightly tradition of a home-cooked meal with my lovely wife. Despite what I’ve read in the funny papers, the middle of my life is a time of contentment and wonder at what the next day may bring, not a crippling blow to my kneecaps as I slowly stumble into oblivion. Sorry to get all existential on your asses, but sometimes you gotta take a look around and appreciate your surroundings and bask in all that is good in your universe. Oh yeah, I was trying to pontificate about the nature of the number forty. Anyhow, I got to thinking about something when I was using a gift certificate to the local record store given to my by my sister-in-law. That something was that I realized that I had gripped an unlikely trio of albums that would have made me wretch twenty years ago. I kind of was looking to stretch out my dollars like hamburger helper and go for the cheapies, so my stubby fingers unconsciously gravitated towards Yes’ The Yes Album, Grateful Dead’s Reckoning and Steely Dan’s Aja. Once I realized my faux pas, I reflexively peered out of each eye to see if anyone had glimpsed what I had wrought. I honestly felt a flash of shame, but then I came to my senses and realized that I didn’t give a shit that I had crossed the line where my listening habits have come full circle and I now adore notes and refrains that I used to sneer at without a second thought. I guess that is one of the minor gifts of my nascent middle age. If it gets my toes tapping, then we’re cool and you can keep me company when I listen to you while I write weirdo odes to Yes and the Grateful Dead while my wife goes out to eat pizza with friends.

I’ve always kind of liked Steely Dan’s particularly smooth brand of sleaze all along and my wife finally broke down the barriers to an unadulterated love of Grateful Dead bootlegs a few years ago. However, Yes was the one band that I could tow the line on and take comfort in the fact that some things were okay to hate forever. Outside of a mercifully short phase where I would get depressed about working in a record store in Indiana, PA and listen to Yessongs incessantly since its overwhelming optimism seemed like the only thing that could fend off the realization that I would most likely have to listen to a Collective Soul album at some point in my day, there was nary a moment when I felt lie dipping my toes into the discography of Yes. However, I figured it was worth a shit if I’m now the kind of guy who actually pays his hard-earned  money on Pure Prairie League and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band records. I picked up The Yes Album as if it were the canary in the coal mine to see if I could actually hang with “I’ve Seen All Good People” and I can attest that I surely can.

The Yes Album is kind of their last step before they dove off the deep end into a crazy-ass pit of songs about Topographic Oceans. It’s followup, Fragile, at least had “Long Distance Runaround” and “Roundabout” to even out the balance between pretentious and “pretentious”, but this one was the last time they bothered with the pretension of rocking out instead of finding new ways to noodle away their days. The best thing about the Yes Album might be how its opener “Your’s Is No Disgrace” begins like an gritty also-ran- from a Nuggets compilation and all off a sudden sprouts wings and soars into some proggy wonderland of multi-tracked harmonies and slap bass reveries. It’s so preposterous and over the top that it shouldn’t work, but thank god it does. The next track, “Clap” might be Yes’ only attempt at a jaunty folk instrumental, but it’s a damn fine piece that honestly wouldn’t sound out of place on John Fahey’s Yellow Princess. Plus, it has “I’ve Seen All Good People” which might be their crowning achievement. It’s like Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young at their finest, except it has a flute solo and mandolin breakdown and an extended metaphor involving chess and the Vietnam War. Yeah, The Yes Album is overly earnest and a bit too satisfied with itself, but it’s kind of brilliant once you strip away the contexts and memories you have assigned to it. Let me bring this to a close before my own ramblings take on the characteristics of a Yes double LP. In short, getting older is enjoyable  and a doubleheader of Yes and the Grateful Dead sounds pretty sublime on a Saturday afternoon these days. I’ll post more re-ups next week.

As Magicistragic approaches its fifth anniversary of existence, I realize why most music blogs have been put out of their misery. It’s kind of a pain in the ass when most of your links have been nabbed by the keystone cops. Others may throw in the towel and call it quits, but what else am I going to do while the wife heads out with the gals? In order to avoid an alternate reality where magicistragic is extinct and I spend my nights reading Anthony Kiedis’s autobiography while The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is muted on the television. Oh wait, that’s actually what I did do last night? Fuck it. I’ve already gone down a horrible wormhole, so here is a slew of re-ups to links that met their untimely end.

Magicistragic Mix for March

Magicistragic Mix for February

Ofege-Try and Love

Radar Bros.-The Singing Hatchet

Bowery Electric-s/t

Magicistragic Mix for January

Joe Walsh-Barstorm

Magicistragic Mix for December

Richard Schneider-Dreamlike Land

Michael Garrison-In the Region of Sunreturn

Magicistragic Mix for November

Now for some tales from the crypt.

Lync-These Are Not Fall Colors

Cheater Slicks-Whiskey

Magicistragic Mix for March(NEW LINK)

If I could make a mixtape and send it back in time to Indiana, PA circa 1994, my younger, longhaired and poorly dressed doppleganger would be so goddamn stoked and drink some shitty beer and have a special moment. Consider this my ode to my musical listening habits in the mid-90s even if half of it didn’t exist then.

Slant 6-Don’t You Ever


The Lilys-Ginger

Opal-Rocket Machine


Peaking Lights-Synthy

The Rentals-The Love I’m Searching For

Magic Circle-White Light

Ice Age-Coalition

Dead Meadow-Dusty Nothing

Meat Puppets-Magic Toy Missing

Endless Boogie-Taking out the Trash

Lync-Silver Spoon Glasses


Jay Reatard-Flourescent Grey

Drexciya-Polymono Pexusgel

Come-Power Failure

The Fall-Container Drivers

Flaming Lips-T.H.E. W.A.N.D.

Ofege-Try and Love

February 27, 2013


Try and Love (EMI 1971) (NEW LINK)

Try and Love saunters along at its own pace. There is something slinky, soulful and languid about how it kind of slinks out of the speakers. The guitar playing on Try and Love is exceedingly fried and stoned to the hilt and makes even the most trite lyrics sound impeccably cool by mere association. It’s kind of unsurprising that it was recorded by a bunch of Nigerian teenagers studying at a college in Nigeria. Ofege has this optimistic, wide-eyed sense of wonder about them that imbues itself into each song as they pine away for a simple world where we all just try to love one another while bemoaning those who bring bad vibes into their lives. While the subject material is straight out of Haight-Ashbury, the instrumentation falls somewhere between a strange Nexus of Santana, Nigerian highlife music and American r&b. It’s a strange brew just based on that stylistic concoction, but the guitarist elevates Ofege to something far more transcendent than an interesting footnote in musical history. His playing is so loose, expansive and free, yet funky that it kind of leads each song on a slow spiral out of control that is kind of psychedelic in ways I never thought possible as he channels countless cultures into each stoned riff.

Another thing I always appreciated about this album is how there is a lovesick and misanthropic vibe that serves as an undercurrent to the flower power that dominates as the theme of the album. For example, the lyrics to the opener “Nobody Fails” is almost straight out of a Morrissey tune as the singer kvetches about how the opposite sex never truly appreciates you until you’re gone. However, the guitarist bails Ofege out again by interjecting some real weirdo vibes as he kicks into some Santana-esque crescendo that breaks down into some bizarro staccato interlude that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the song. However, “It’s Not Easy” is one of those songs that outshine everything else on an album and make Try and Love a habitual listen instead of an occasional one. It’s just one of those perfectly imperfect compositions that just make the world a better place. It’s built upon a triumvirate that ebbs and flows throughout the song: a stoned chorus that chants the title of the song, impassioned pleading about the difficulties of love and a guitar riff that kind of dances a headlong strut throughout the song. It is all I ever wanted from a song and it makes me ignore every fault of this flawed, but eminently loveable album.

Radar Bros.

The Singing Hatchet(See Thru/Chemikal Underground 1999)

At first listen, the Radar Bros sound like any number of 90s sad sacks enamored with grandiose crescendos and morose sentiments set to song. A quick stroll through my admittedly hazy memories uncovers a panoply of Acetones, Lows, Idahos, American Analog Sets and Red House Painters equally enamored with this weathered, but worthwhile formula. At the time, I thought of every single one of these bands as my sullen stalwarts on those rainy days that bled into lonely nights, but time has eaten away at their charms. What was once soothing and intimate to these ears, now sounds bloated and boring. However, the Radar Bros are still as cozy as an afghan blanket. Yeah, they mined the same territory as the rest, but there has always been something panoramic and ostentatious about their music. To be honest, the real reason I love this band, especially their work on The Singing Hatchet and its followup And the Surrounding Mountains, is how it all falls somewhere between the vibe of a slow-motion Pink Floyd ballad and Neil Young at his most bruised and confused. That’s a bit of a dishonest and hyperbolic statement since the Radar Bros aren’t even in the same stratosphere as either, but they do a stellar job of conjuring up the same troubled, but beautiful hoodoo of both. During the 90s and early 2000s, Radar Bros just kind of perfected this languorous, glacial pace that served as the perfect canvas for some honest to god anthems that kind of make you wish they were big in the 70s so you could smoke a bowl and wave a lighter as they plodded through imaginary hit after imaginary hit.

The Singing Hatchet is one of the unsung albums of the 90s. The opening track “Shifty Lies” is kind of the most perfect and sublime beginning to an album that seems mired in defeatist posture. Hell, the chorus to the song is “shifty lies and senseless visions, overflow like frozen rivers, stand in line and watch the time, you’re cattled up and weeks behind, how long, how long until we reach the bottom of the lake?”  It starts off like some 70s cosmic Country and Western meditation until it suddenly swells and rises to an almost proggy chorus glorifying resignation and ennui. It’s kind of epic in its own minor league way. It paints the lovable loser as unlikely hero who sees life as it truly is.

The rest of the album just grows more dour. “You’re on an Island” amps up the 70s prog quotient with some intro that sounds like an Alan Parsons Project instrumental that stumbles into some existential ballad where our protagonist kind of wonders a bit too hard about  lost love a bit too much. In fact, it’s kind of creepy. I guess that’s another reason why I like this album. There’s some unsettling themes going on underneath the Live at Pompeii vibe. In fact, “Shoveling Sons” is kind of macabre too as it centers around  some apocalyptic tale about young men digging the graves of the old as the earth crawls to its inevitable end. I like how the story doesn’t match the instrumentation which carries on as if its some stoned anthem about lazy days in a hammock. It’s kind of one long bummer after another, but there is something so soothing and relaxing about how each song gently eases you down another notch toward a crummy mood. I guess that’s why I gravitate to The Singing Hatchet so much. It’s kind of a thematically perfect narrative about a protagonist who gradually loses the will to fight and grows to like it.

Consider this a safe place to request uploads of dead links. Somehow, this site is approaching its fifth anniversary so there is plenty of room for error and forgetfulness. Please comment and I will try to remedy the situation.


Magic is Tragic Mix: February 2013

Yeah, I’m lame and post more mixes than albums these days, but I’ve got an excuse this time. A flu descended upon my abode and my son, wife and I have been recycling some bad hoodoo between us for the past month. Therefore, blogging about unpopular albums fell somewhere between roll over and die and wish for a healthier tomorrow in my daily to-do list. Anyhow, this one is a bit of a sloppy mess of songs that have lightened the load during these contagious times. It falls somewhere between an ode to 90s indie-pop and its forefathers, divergent strains of reggae and library music coupled with the greatest hits of the 60s and 70s compilation that only exists in my mind. Hope you enjoy.

April March & Los Cincos-Baby Blue

New Age Steppers-Fade Away

Melody’s Echo Chamber-I Follow You

Kevin Ayers-May I

Royal Headache-Never Again

The Pastels-Nothing to be Done


Keith Hudson-Playing It Cool

The Baird Sisters-On and On

Robin Artus/Paul Kass-Alphia Micro

Harlem-Friendly Ghost

Ducktails-Hamilton Road

The Oblivians and Quintron-Live the Life

Lower Dens-Tea Lights

Flaming Lips-Hit Me Like You Did the First Time

Times New Viking-No Room to Live

Chris Darrow-Shawnee Moon

Segun Bucknor-La La La(Part One)

Fairport Convention-Million Dollar Bash

Butterglory-Back of My Hand

Guided By Voices-Non-Absorbing

Beau Brummels-Laugh, Laugh

Blawan-Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?

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Bowery Electric-s/t

January 19, 2013

Bowery Electric

s/t (Kranky 1995)

ttp:// (NEW LINK)

In my addled and biased opinion, Bowery Electric’s self-titled debut might be one of my favorite rock albums of the 1990’s. It’s definitely the near zenith of the Kranky Records discography as it kind of conjures an alternate universe where Spacemen 3 stuck to smoking weed instead of the harder stuff and laid up at night listening to old Slowdive and selected platters of 4ad’s finest. Both bands share that innate ability to jam out a hypnotically monotonous guitar riff that overtakes the entire song and leaves you wishing you could edit out the vocals because it’s just that good and it really has no business ever stopping. The best parts of Bowery Electric’s debut is when the band channels the vibe of Spacemen 3’s “When Tomorrow Hits” and replaces its dark, nihilistic vibe with something more airy and eerie. That track kind of serves as spiritual forefather for what goes down on this album as guitarist Lawrence Chandler plays with the same slow-motion desolation as the original, yet there’s something going on that’s entirely his own. It’s kind of funny that dozens of bands have done a fair to middling job of sounding like Spacemen 3, but no band has ever copied or emulated what Bowery Electric were doing here since its release. Hell, Bowery Electric didn’t even come close to duplicating the vibe of this one as they quickly switched gear on its follow-up, Beat, and became something much less palatable.

This is an album that ebbs and flows kind of organically. It has a perfect balance of slowly throbbing guitar codas that gradually give way to more gentle numbers that let everything echo into a sea of reverb and the tension between the two give it an almost epic quality at times. Unsurprisingly, “Slow Thrills”, the best track on the album, somehow combines the two and the result is positively glorious. All three members get their time in the sunshine here as drummer Michael Johngren and bassist/vocalist Martha Schwendener lock into a stoner two-step that makes these ten minutes all too fleeting. She dourly intones into the micropohone and the whole band breaks a lengthy crescendo that gradually loses a battle to a soothing interlude designed to ease your mind before they club you over the head one more time until its close.

It’s actually kind of a grim and joyless album. However, it’s the perfect album for those moments when you just want to listen to a gloriously monotonous album and blithely nod along for forty minutes. Actually, that sounds like most of my music listening habits, so it’s no surprise that I reach for this album more than most.

Magicistragic Mix for January

I’d like to imagine this chronologically impossible mix of  something I possibly could be nodding along to on a discman while wandering the streets late at night somewhere on a summer night in 1998.

The Young-Livin Free

The Go-Meet Me at the Movies


Gastr Del Sol-The Seasons Reverse

Cate Le Bon-What is Worse

Fruit Bats-So Long


Broadcast-The Equestrian Vortex

Liars-No 1 against the Rush

Tubeway Army-The Life Machine

Melody’s Echo Chamber-Some Time Alone, Alone

Bowery Electric-Deep Sky Objects


Royal Trux-Back to School

Toy Love-Swimming Pool

Rotary Connection-Memory Band

Joe Walsh-Barnstorm

December 21, 2012

Joe Walsh

Barnstorm (1972 ABC Records)

Let me preface this review by disclosing that my wife once smoked a joint with Joe Walsh at Woodstock ’94. This is one of the multitude of reasons why I love her, but want to make it known that this trivia has in no way influenced my devotion to Joe Walsh.

No amount of soap and water could wipe away the stench of the Eagles. Yeah, I dig a couple of their songs whenever they happen to pop up like a whack-a-mole in my daily existence. I kind of nod my head at first, but something about them always triggers me to grab that rubber mallet and forcibly beat it back into it’s sleazy hole. Dude, I cannot even begin to express how I cannot stand everything to do with the collectively nauseating vibe of Don Henley and Glenn Frey and how it befouled all who ever picked up an instrument in that band. However, their is one notable and hypocritical exception to this cardinal rule, the stone-cold coolness of one Joe Walsh. Joe Walsh was kind of a skeeve and embodied that whole lackadaisical longhair lothario vibe they exuded on their hits, so he made perfect sense  as a later addition to the band circa Hotel California. However, his work prior to the Eagles is so far superior to what came after he was tainted by tunes telling tales of dark desert highways with cool wind in one’s hair.

First, you cannot beat the skeevy ambiance of the James Gang. They were positively one of the best hard rock bands of their time and the triumvirate of Yer’ Album, Rides Again and Thirds might be one of the best trios to listen to whenever the sun is shining and a cold brew awaits your yearning hand. They were equally adept at libidinous guitar anthems as well as the slow and smarmy blues with a liberal sprinkling of 60s country-rock. However, Joe Walsh’s solo debut, Barnstorm, takes the cake as it amplifies all that was great about the James Gang and lathers it with plenty of weirdo flourishes that make it something entirely his own and uncopied since. It’s practically kaleidoscopic in comparison to its past and future as Walsh captures lightning in a bottle and writes the album of his career. Barnstorm is kind of a conundrum. One-half is happy to improve on the formula of the James Gang, but the other half wants to take a nap in the corner with the Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers and dream of prog-rock future together. Unsurprisingly, my heart is forever entwined with the latter vibe.

The opening track “Here We Go” signals that Walsh has his sights set on something more epic than the James Gang. To be honest, it kind of sounds like a southern-fried Yes for the first half until Walsh unfurls one of those riffs where you can almost imaging the wind blasting his hair into the air as he begins to strum its central chords. Even stranger is “One on One” which is brittle paean to missing the innocence of youth that is a mostly piano-driven prog ballad complete with one of those farty synth solos that give way to an interlude of fluting that echoes into the ether. It’s a weird track, but kind of gorgeous if you decide to get down with where they are cming from here. On the other hand, “Turn to Stone” almost serves as a forgotten signpost for the beginnings of heavy metal if you erase the stoned and mellow chorus from the incessantly chugging riff that erupts throughout it. Lyrically, it’s a bunch of mumbo-jumbo about avoiding confrontation until the cork pops out of the proverbial bottle, but it’s delivered with enough lunkhead devotion that you kind of feel like rooting for this red hot mess in the song. Barnstorm is many things, all of them excellent.