The Magic Gang return with their sophomore album, Death of the Party , a reflective and occasionally moody piece in which the band dig deeper, but that is still permeated by optimism.
It’s fairly common to see an indie rock outlet fade into the relative obscurity of the genre after a successful debut album, but with Death of the Party, The Magic Gang are solidifying their place in the mainstream. Experimentation with genre, instrumentation and the four-piece format are at the forefront of what makes this follow-up album so enjoyable. That isn’t to say that their debut, The Magic Gang, isn’t enjoyable in its own catchy, repetitive and jingly indie pop sound. In fact, they embrace the idealistic look towards various themes that could be found on the first record, but continue their exploration of themes in a more mature and reflective way, all the while maintaining a playful attitude towards genre.
Take the first single to be released ahead of the album for example, ‘What Have You Got To Lose’? With the grungy and low-key introduction, with a heavy bassline from guitarist Angus Taylor, and spoken-word-like vocals from Jack Kaye, the track guides us through an argument at a bar, into embracing the hedonism that comes with youth. Accompanying the change in tone with the lyrics comes the change of pace with the guitar sounds, introducing a catchy and rousing riff that dominates the rest of the track. The track highlights the bands intention to deviate from their initial staple sound, which translates well onto the album.
‘Fail Better’ and ‘Gonna Bounce Back’ adopt a more mature and reflective tone in the lyrics, whilst still having some on-brand optimism permeate them. ‘Gonna Bounce Back’ explores an artist who is down on his luck, still stuck living in his parents house.The song’s simple message about remaining determined and promoting a sense of self-value in the face of your life not going quite as you planned is timely in a year in which, for most people, things didn’t quite go to plan.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the motivational lyrics were written in light of the year that 2020 has been, but the album was initially penned throughout the summer of 2018 into the spring of 2019 and produced in Atlanta, Georgia. Drummer Paeris Giles described the recording experience as a “giant holiday” , and the jovial and gleeful holiday atmosphere lingers throughout the album, especially on tracks such as ‘Take Back The Track’. Initially written about Kaye repeatedly requesting a Sister Sledge song at a nightclub, the tracks funk-inspired bassline and soulful vocals help create that celebratory atmosphere.
Titular track ‘Death of the Party’ is where the Gang are at their most introspective. Kristian Smith accounts a party he attended on New Year’s Eve 2018, (the second time that the same night is explored in this album, initially accounted by Kaye on Make A Sound) it’s a slow-toe-tapper (to coin a phrase) that takes you into the insecurities that Smith accounts sorrowfully, e.g. “Everyone is ready with our costumes on / But as soon as I’m arriving it’s already done”. The change of tempo from earlier jingle-like tunes such as ‘Think’ balance well, and shows a detachment from their simpler, more idealistic surface-level themes explored on their first record.
Death of the Party is a more auto-biographical and experimental record from The Magic Gang, and this translates into a rousing and feel-good album, that hints that there is a lot more to come artistically from the quartet.
Words by Harry Mottram
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