[9 May 2012]
If there was one thing the graduating class of Rock ‘N’ Roll High 2008-09 had in spades it was tough lookin’ guy/gal duos. Crystal Castles, Kap Bambino, Ting Tings, Sleigh Bells, Blood Red Shoes, erm…She & Him. Each lookin’ to steal your hearts, annoy the neighbours, burn bridges and look hella-cool whilst doing it. Alas one of the most promising, Nashville’s Magic Wands, proved too kool for skool. They flipped the bird to the Man, lit cigarettes with their diplomas and tore off into the night under a cloud of smoke. Their sole parting gift—2009’s Magic, Love & Dreams EP—left spinning on the tarmac like a hubcap diamondstar halo and they were gone Daddio. “Sayonara, outtahere”....until now.
Well honey if that’s not a flying pig! The lipstick ‘n’ switchblade duo of Chris ‘N’ Dexy Valentine are back! Back! BACK! After a thousand nights shacked up in the desert chewing peyote, making out in teepees and taming a giant stuffed lion called Captain Sylvester, Aloha Moon is Le Wands du Magique’s semi-mythical debut album. One cautionary aside first. If you’ve been sitting there twisting your Rolex, marking days on your cell wall waiting for this baby to drop you may be slightly miffed at the ‘slim pickings’ of fresh material. Of Aloha’s ten tracks only five are new blood, the rest familiar friends, albeit having received a hearty feed and a hot bath. But if you’re “Magic who?” hop in, buckle up and let’s see what this puppy can do.
The sunny, Honolulu baby title track welcomes us onto Magic Island and we’re graced with grass skirts, sea breezes, cocktails ‘n’ dreams. A shot of serotonin sunshine, out-of-body giddiness and bear hugs from angels. “Running with white horses on the beach / We’re in a dream” coos Dexy, possibly whilst fondling a harp. This ain’t no day for dozing though as a call to “Sex me up!” reveals “Teenage Love”, the sassy, seductive spark that first drove a starstruck Chris across America searching for his partner-in-crime. The nodding dog bass, Tom Tom Club “Genius of Love” grooves and cool-as-Blondie semi-rapp’d, semi-sigh’d vocal, now even more deliciously poptastic. Romantic but simmerin’ with devilry it struts like a Minx circling a town called ‘FILTHY’. “Come over now so we can f-...forget about everything”. Me-ow!
Moon picks up the pace with the 4/4 driving disco-pop of “Kaleidoscope Hearts”. A child of Blondie’s “Atomic” it’s beefier and tougher than in its former incarnation. “Follow me down to the astral ocean / Kissing in the stars like a psychedelic kaleidoscope of hearts”. It’s the hypnotic, daring lure into the shadows like being hypnotically glamour’d by a True Blood vamp. The pride of the new batch “Crystals” follows. Half Fleetwood Mac, half the Cure, it’s custom built for midnight road trips, moonshine hipflasks and cheese ‘n’ mescaline sandwiches. A spiralling Kim Gordon bassline, a hip-hop backbeat and the thrill of “The power to make you a believer”. It’s swagger smouldering behind Raybans.
“I can’t cool down / My desire.” Yup, hot at the half, Aloha Moon is firin’ on all cylinders. Early single “Warrior” has been upgraded with block rockin’ tribal drums and feels like a new ride. Dexy’s slurred, whispery voodoo poisons like some bad seed in your ear telling ya to go dark, “You’re a warrior / I’m on fire”. So mischievously infectious, one hit and you’ll be putting on the warpaint and wrestling wild animals in your best loincloth. At this point resistance is futile and the blistering axe riff that signals their calling card “Black Magic” feels like a victory lap around the wagons. Blessed with a stuttering-bubblegum chorus, go-go dancer beats and motorcycle gang attitude, it’d undoubtedly garner two thumbs up and a certificate of coolness from Arthur Fonzerelli. “All night out on the run….and black magic!”. Aloha Moon thus far deemed “Sch-mokin’”.
Darn shame then there’s a slight wobble two-thirds in. Only slight, but noticeable. Betwixt all this levitational coolness two newies garner only polite applause. The twinkly-starred, floaty spaceman called “Treasure” is so prosaic you’ll feel a bit exposed and daft having spent your Aloha time thus far dancing in your pants like a loon. “Wolves” is weaker still. Dexy sounds like she’s phoning it in (literally) whilst Chris struggles to make his guitar howl (literally). A Cyborg voice declares “No more wolves” as if unexpectedly caught short, prompting Dexy to declare “No more waiting” and try Walmarts instead (possibly). Both feel akin to glimpsing the poorly concealed wires moving the “spooky ghost”.
Sensibly then, the Wands decide to follow-up these two gaffs with their finest trick, “Kiss Me Dead”. In Magic terms, it’s the Prestige. So dreamily intoxicating and with an ache spelt “L-U-V” it’s the sort of magnetic marvel worth leaving home for and never, ever, lookin’ back. “High on your eyes / A million stars melt in the dark”. A rollercoaster rush in slo-mo, arms skyward, let yourself go. When Dexy drawls “The look on your face…is totally cool” it is officially “Totally Cool”. A song to be tattooed on your heart and textbook ‘perfect pop’—sexy, romantic, funny, timeless, smart and you can dance to it. This is why some folk have been holding out for Aloha Moon. So damn fine I’ll even forgive ‘em for trimming that whipcrackin’ single “OOOH!” that illuminated the original. Recent single and getaway car “Space” waves “A hui hou” with dramatic fervour but you’ll likely still be tripping on “Kiss’” afterglow.
“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it” believed Roald Dahl. Whilst Aloha Moon isn’t quite the immaculate conception, its “Crystal visions, astral hearts and stars” still conjure enough supernatural, spellbinding spectacle to charm the most ardent of sceptics. It may’ve taken the Wands a while to casually pull this one from their wizard’s sleeves but Aloha is one Magic act worth catching.