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Magic Jake and the Power Crystals

Magic Jake and the Power Crystals

[Burger; 2012]

By ; November 12, 2012 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

There will always be a call for skuzzy garage rock—just ask Thee Oh Sees or Ty Segall. And descending from a long line of lo-fi rockers, Detroit-based Magic Jake and the Power Crystals look to carry on this storied tradition. The bass shakes, threatening to run the speakers ragged, and the guitars quiver with a fuzzed out desperation. Somewhere “Kick Out the Jams” breathes a sigh of relief. Garage rock has rarely sounded this much fun. But it’s not simply a case of the right amps and pedals. Magic Jake infuses their debut with a sense of playful mischievousness and tone-head reverence that few recent garage rock bands can match. Drop back a few decades and these songs would’ve fit right in between the manic energy of the MC5 and the freak-out rock theatrics of The Stooges. In just under 30 minutes, the band roars through enough thundering power chords and chest-rattling bass to shake apart a small town and they still seem able to toss in a slew of sickly sweet melodies with relative ease.

Earning his stripes as both the bassist for fellow garage rockers King Tuff, as well as bassist and frontman for his own band, Magic Jake (aka “who knows”) seems to be a man out of time, more at home in the late 60’s than in 2012. This album plays like a lost Nuggets gem or post-punk classic, thrown out and forgotten in the alleyways of Detroit. Opening song “Power Crystals” is straight Motor City fuzz, all thumping toms and frayed walls of guitar squall. The oddly effective chimes that shimmer throughout the song possess an almost mystical feel. It sets up the rest of the album perfectly as the band tears through their own distorted musical lineage without ever looking back. “Boys & Girls” piles layers of vocals on top of a thrumming guitar line and ragged drum beat. You can hear the seams popping one by one. The third track, “Let It Die,” has guitars, lots of guitars—sludgy and thick. So let’s get one thing straight right now: this is a rock record—no frills, bells, or even the weepy string section on that one sentimental song. Magic Jake and the Power Crystals play Rock ‘N Roll.

Magic Jake also shares more than a few chromosomes with late 70’s, early 80’s post punk bands like The Gun Club and The Only Ones. Songs like “Over the Moon” and “Loving Knife” could have been pulled straight from Left of the Dial: Dispatches From The ’80s Underground. The full throttle attack of smeared vocals and screeching guitars carries a torch that extends from the 60’s on through to 2012. The need for that torch to be carried has never diminished; it always needs a bearer. And lucky for us, there is always someone eager to pick it up.

The album never really loses any of the momentum gained from those first few tracks and barrels through at a rapid clip. Magic Jake gives us just what we need and trims everything else away. No excess, no lost time—only the good stuff. “Modular Man” and “Still So Young” are good examples of this success-through-simplicity mindset. The songs race by in a blur, leaving scattered bits of guitars and broken strings in their wake. And seeing as how most garage rock is fairly disposable, the fact that these songs feel relevant to a genre that has always been known as a dumping ground for artists who never quite found their footing is very telling. It takes a very talented band to do this kind of music well. Most garage rock bands feel like shadows of the shadows of better musicians. But the really gifted bands transcend the demeaning labels and immediate dismissals and elevate, for a time anyway, what could have been an album of nondescript background noise and turn it into some tremendous and exciting. If it’s true that there are no new ideas in rock music, then Magic Jake and the Power Crystals seem to do just fine with what they know.


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