After a lengthy break that made some wonder if the band still existed, Drugstore returned with a new lineup, adding cellist Ian Burdge, and a great second album, White Magic for Lovers. The bulk of attention toward the release came due to the duet on lead single "El President," in that Monteiro's singing partner was Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke. With piano-tinged drama straight out of a Morricone-scored Western making for a great overall motif, Yorke and Monteiro combine wonderfully, the former's high, hurt approach astonishingly suitable for the acoustic guitar/strings drive of the song. As for the album in general, Yorke may well have been a touchstone, as White Magic has more of an upfront kick to it quite reminiscent of Radiohead's brilliant art rock dynamics. There's still the sense of dreamy psych/rock flow at many points -- "Song for Pessoa" is a grand voice/guitar (acoustic) highlight -- but everything's been spiked with quicker tempos, cutting arrangements, and greater overall variety. "Mondo Cane" begins with a brawling punk-level punch, for instance, while "Sober" could have appeared on The Bends without anyone blinking an eye -- and yet it sounds like a Drugstore song in the end instead of a simple cloning. It's a grand balance, and Monteiro's often-biting but equally empathetic lyrics are delivered with her usual panache and even more fire. Robinson, meanwhile, is revelatory on guitar, adding in strange, out-of-nowhere overdubs and turning into something of a new guitar god without showing off about it, even taking whispery lead vocals on the anthemic late-'60s punch "Never Come Down." The overall guest list on the album, meanwhile, ranges from a mariachi band on the anthem-for-the-dispossessed "Say Hello," a fierce and fine opener, to other string and horn players throughout, including drummer Chylinski's sister Kathleen on "Tips for Travelling." An underrated triumph, White Magic for Lovers shows Drugstore giving rock a well-deserved blast of new energy and passion.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett