Magic Wands // Jupiter
Recommended Track(s): Chariot, Blue Wall
In mythology and modern astrology, Jupiter is the burly benefic planet of good fortune, growth and optimism. After a dismal 2 months in the shit-music wilderness, wounded & starving, beset by the twin monsters of “Why do I even fucking bother?” and “What is even the fucking point?”, this album showed up on bass-kick ankles with a chorus line of angels in its barrel chest, and swept away those bummer concerns with a mere gesture of its ethereal guitar-arms. Jupiter finds Magic Wands walking confidently in cosmic parts unknown, making the evolution from unsung heroes of the LA pop underground to goth-rock legends-in-waiting.
“Love Soldier” puts you-as-Michael Knight behind the wheel of Kit in an episode of Knight Rider where you have to beat Gran Tourismo 6’s Special Stage Route 7 without dropping below 300 km/h or the world ends. It’s covered in blue-flames right out of the gate, every snare-hit and roll of the toms like a whipping-cord. Don’t get it twisted: loved the drum machines, but the analog kit is this band’s beastly new friend. 4:25 minutes in, when you veer off a cliff on Mullholland Drive, it is that beat which assures you’ll land safely.
Magic Wands’ vocalist Dexy Valentine spoke about the 60s influence on this record. While paisley, lava-lamps and weed with stems isn’t what pops into my head when I think of Magic Wands, I do think that this collection of songs harkens back to a time when “BIG” albums were expertly made for people who listen to in bed through a giant pair of headphones. Jupiter isn’t an album you listen to out of your laptop or cellphone speaker. Pull some pedestrian shit like that and you’ll miss out on this band’s crown jewel: Valentine’s voice, which sounds as if a “chiller-verse” version of Bananarama started a crystal cathedral for white witches in her throat. It’s a cripplingly addictive shot of icy hot mercy, sent like an arrow of light to a mirror at the top of your skull. Basically: It heals.
Example? Despite “Lazerbitch” having the inherent swagger of a Las Vegas pimp/mescaline dealer, it also has some fairly annoying tremolo-y/wah-wah stuff going on, backed by far too simple of a low-end (I wanted the bass, to simply do more). But the moment Dexy starts singing it’s like the archangel Haniel swooped in Valkyrie-style to save not only the song, but you.
This isn’t to say that the rest of band are perfunctory. Even the most rudimentary bits are played with one-part umami, two-parts soul. The bass is played warmly and happily even when soaked in sub-zero chorus. It’s like the arm of an older brother draped across your shoulder. The guitars are like being baptized in stars & wine. In some instances (“Chariot”, “Dream Street”) they start to merge together. (J)angular and abstract, they congeal from two sister oceans into one crackling and iridescent cloud—a beautiful, galactic fuck you. These combined efforts don’t just sound like some band doing “a thing,” it sounds like Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac slowly lurching towards you from some dark horizon.
One thing I make sure to do, even if I think an album is great, is at least try to highlight something negative (which I kinda did) about its entirety. But Jupiter was so well sequenced that by the time I thought to get some good jabs and lacerations in, “Jupiter II” cued up and hushed me like unruly toddler. It’s basically 13 minutes of decompression and “Chill, bro. You missed the shit-talking boat.” And while I usually fucking hate it when bands do this, right now it’s a much needed (and comforting) alternative to making the all-too-common and fatal mistake of overstaying your welcome. But let’s be honest. When I love a band, they can do whatever they want. I would have listened to 4 more tracks of this, because live or on a record, there’s not many groups around like Magic Wands. Big on ritual mystery, experts at spellbinding song-craft and blessed with a heroic otherworldly madness. When music industry asteroid trash and overhyped space-junk threaten the sanctity of my pale blue dot, it’s good to know they’re around.