The Magic Numbers have come at the perfect time. After listening to 20+ new albums this year of mostly indie rock of varying degrees of heaviness, these two sets of siblings have come with a decidedly unique voice to add to this year’s offerings of fresh music by new and veteran bands. The band comes from London by way of New York and Trinidad.
The band has received a fair amount of press, some good and some less so, after walking out on Top Of The Pops this summer after host Richard Bacon referred to them as being a “fat melting pot of talent”. Perhaps ultra skinny Pete Doherty and Kate Moss wouldn’t take that personally, but The Magic Numbers did. The result was a bevy of Brit press surrounding the episode. Luckily, the band has put the situation behind them, and their debut album, nominated for this year’ Mercury Prize, speaks for itself.
Romeo sings lead, plays the guitar, and writes bright, charming songs that focus the listener on harmony. His sister Michele plays an understated bass, while brother and sister combo Sean and Angela cover the drums, percussion and backing vocals among themselves. On their own website they credit The Mamas and The Papas as influences, but to write this quartet off as merely a derivation of the 60’s California group would be a gross mistake. In fact, The Magic Number seem capable of exceeding the success of The Mamas And The Papas, who enjoyed one tremendously successful year (1966) only to be eventually done in by infighting and drugs.
The lyrics for many of the songs reference, heartache, lost loves, break ups and redemption. The addition of the female vocals to provide harmony provides an interesting juxtaposition of sad sack lyrics and upbeat music. Romeo’s sweet lead vocals cascade over the melodies, and the marriage of vocals and chords make for a 13 song album that draws stark contrasts between itself and many other more cynical, guitar driven albums of 2005.
Album opener “Mornings Eleven” is a confident introduction to the album—defining Romeo’s place as the backbone of the band, and his supporting cast as worthy travelers on the musical excursion.
“The Mule” is more of a rocker with more electric guitar than you’ll hear on most of the album. Romeo laments, “I’m a no-good used-up bruised-up fucked-up boy/Who gets beat up by just looking at you,” in a moment of self-pity over a lost love.
The country tinged “Long Legs” features Romeo experimenting with his voice, alternating between a Dylanesque whine and a Southern twang.
As 2005 debut releases go, The Magic Numbers is a Sunday morning LP, best listened to while cooking eggs and bacon and preparing for a full day of work-free bliss. Listen closely enough to the album, and between the harmonies, keyboards and acoustic guitar, you can hear the foundations of a solid career being built around their considerable talents.