Magic Roundabout


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Up Review

by Tim Sendra

Formed in the wake of the noise pop revolution that was typified by the angrily melodic clatter of the Jesus and Mary Chain on the one hand and the joyful enthusiasm of Shop Assistants on the other, Magic Roundabout spent their short time together making the scene, but not making records. The Manchester group played shows with most of the biggest names of the era, whether they were established like the Pastels or just getting their wings like My Bloody Valentine. The two songs that were released during their tenure showed up only on a super-obscure cassette compilation made by Mark Webber of Pulp. "She's a Waterfall (Part One)" and "She's a Waterfall (Part Two)" were promising jangle fuzz ballads that feature fragile vocals, primitive percussion, and bedsit fidelity. Certainly, they were good enough to garner interest from at least one of the indie labels that were popping up like corn stalks in Iowa. Fate dealt the band a bad hand, however, and they split before releasing anything else. Fast-forward to 2021, and thanks to the dogged efforts of one of Magic Roundabout's fans from back in the day, Ian Masters of Pale Saints, and the team at Third Man, the band gets a second chance at the spotlight, diffuse though it might be. The 2021 collection Up contains "She's a Waterfall (Part One)" and five other tracks that give solid proof that the labels of the time missed out on something special. So did indie pop fans past and present who have had to wait this long to hear the tracks. They range from the biting, Cramps-y rocker "Carol in Your Eyes" and the pulsing, bathed-in-feedback "Cast Your Sadness Away" to a noise-damaged, happily repetitive ballad turned freak-out, "Up," and the almost 20-minute-long "Alice's Paper Plane," which flickers and flashes in a circular, experimental racket that calls to mind the Red Krayola at their weirdest. Stuck in between these two extremes is a song that should have been featured on every compilation of indie pop classics to come down the pike since the end of the original era. The rollicking, stop-start "Sneaky Feelin'" shows Magic Roundabout's mastery of the form, skewers the listener with a mighty hook, and leverages the group's youthful, untutored musical approach into something magical. That song alone makes this a collection worth owning; the rest of the tracks only serve to cement that notion, and every fan of classic noisy indie pop should seek Up out. The only blot on an otherwise sunny proposition is that the collection doesn't include the band's full output. "She's a Waterfall (Part Two)" and "Song for Gerard Langley" -- the latter of which served as a B-side on Third Man's single release of "Sneaky Feelin'" -- are inexplicably left off and are missed quite a bit. Add them in and this set would be a perfect artifact.

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