The Magic Numbers, The Pigalle Club, London
Monday 26 April 2010
The Magic Numbers are back. Yes, that four-piece with lots of hair and impressive beards (half of them, anyway), who back in 2005 made people smile with the jangle-guitar and brother-sister harmonies of their eponymous debut.
But singing with your siblings must take its toll and the Stodarts and Gannons took a break after a less favourably received second album and a full-on family bust-up. Returning refreshed and regrouped, they offer up new material ahead of an album and tour in June.
The first two songs are backed by a string quartet, but the sound is over-full, drowning energy and nuance. The Pigalle Club is a small venue, however; belting out at a festival, this grander orchestration could work.
A technical fault halts the set, and frontman Romeo Stodart jokes self-deprecatingly about the need to "banter" with the crowd. With his infectious grin, twinkly, crinkling eyes and cherry-cheeks (he is rather like a young Father Christmas) he needn't worry about winning the audience over.
Things kick off again with "Hurt So Good", from new album The Runaway, which they turn into a sing-along. The audience soon drop their parts in order to just soak up the band's dreamy harmonies, which won them early comparisons to the likes of The Beach Boys and The Mamas and the Papas. It's a strength their new material also plays to, particular on "Once I Had".
"Take a Chance", the hit from 2006's album Those the Brokes, now sounds like a theme for the mid-Noughties. But while it's irrepressibly of it's time, as a slice of catchy, guitar-based indie-pop, laced with sunshiney "ooh"s, it's still thoroughly enjoyable. And one of their earliest tracks "I See You, You See Me" must have been the theme-music to a lot of romances too; as The Magic Numbers begin to sing, the room seems suddenly full of check-shirted men in their early thirties, mumbling nostalgically along.
There are few surprises here and the new material doesn't really show the signs of development you might expect after a four-year break. This does mean The Magic Numbers move seamlessly between new tracks and old favourites without that weary 'we're playing them because we have to' feeling, and their breakthrough hit, "Love Me Like You", is a definite highlight. While there's little that's edgy or urgent in this performance, if it's warm-fuzzies you're looking for, they've still got the magic.
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