Mega City Four

Magic Bullets

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After Sebastopol Rd. was released here -- their first-ever domestic product -- Magic Bullets sadly returns Mega City Four to the import bin. And it isn't deserved. Though not as strong as that previous stylistic breakthrough, this LP nevertheless continues the terrific thread of its predecessor in material, sound, and words. Still a mix of sweet-sounding pop with sneak-attack post-punk guitar power (best compared to Paul Westerberg's scope and knack for an angry hook), the prolific Mega City Four know a song when they've finished arranging yet another one, and leader Wiz's writing shows no sign of wear and tear even as he's begun to plumb similar themes and characteristics LP to LP. Just as "Ticket Collector" started things off with a bang last time around, "Perfect Circle" jump-starts this one off, then it goes through the bends, peaks, and unpredictable swerves all over again. "Iron Sky" is a lacerating, fresh pop gem -- the obvious choice for the single. "Drown" pulses low and hard. The glorious "Enemy Skies" recalls the whomp and whack of Who Cares Wins' "Me Not You." "Speck" ends things on a somber and quiet note, much as "Stupid Way to Die" ended the debut, Tranzophobia four years previously. This kind of range, added to Wiz's keen, imploring voice and (still) prescient lyrics, has made them into a pop institution in England, where they've enjoyed a few Top 40 singles. Yet on every album they go back to their roots as a scruffy, poppy, rockin' punk group (best documented on the singles LP Terribly Sorry Bob), and on these outings they still can batter one happy, as they simultaneously wield vicious melodies that stick to you like a dog in a thunderstorm. Here it's "Rainman," a song so fast, slick, and smacking it almost seems rote until its punches land solidly on the second or third play. Likewise, "Greener" is another gleeful torcher. Hot stuff. Again, if not as amazing a collection as the previous LP, this is still another special LP from a band America should have known better than to ignore. Get the import or lose out.

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