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Shark Bait

(PC Music)

Let me just get this out of the way. It’s hot in Chicago this weekend, really hot. Hot like in, don’t even think about looking outside, much less going outside, hot. What does that have to with music reviews? Well, basically it’s going to be a certain type of music I can appreciate at the moment. No, not ice-cool, German electronica, but anything loud and tuneful enough to hear over the din of my poor, overworked, window air conditioners. I tried listening to the great new Unit album on Caipirinha and the new American Analog Set disc, but couldn’t hear a bloody thing to save my life.

Ah, but that’s where Magnet comes in. Not only can I hear it, but I’m groovin’ around the room and staying cool as a clam. Magnet is in actuality one Mark Goodman, whose pursuit of the “perfect song” leads to assemble rotating groups of musicians for each song.

“Emily” is the best of the lot—staccato, choppy rhythm guitars, eerie synths, and snaky violins with just a touch of Western swing, and a great chord shift on the chorus that is pure Paul McCartney all the way. In fact, “Emily” sounds like the 1999 version of a missing song from Revolver. “Rule Me” is a lot more mellow, but the sweet vocals and melancholy solo violin is a great sound, not often heard in pop anymore. It may sound odd, but Revolver really haunts this album. The fuzzy vocals and heavy beats on “Shave Your Head” raise the ghost of “Tomorrow Never Knows.” That single Beatles song has influenced more music this year than any single rock song ever written.

It’s when Goodman reaches for a heavier sound, like on “Rope,” that the album really dips in quality, lapsing into derivativeness that, frankly, has been done better elsewhere. Not that the pop doesn’t bow deeply to its influences, it’s just that Magnet is far better and convincing in that pose. Luckily, those lapses don’t occur often and Magnet quickly rights the ship, as on the rootsy, toe-tapper “Over You,” with it’s occasional flashes of late-60s Rolling Stones and the swingy, but rockin’, piano pop of “Thanks for the Hand.” Hey, if Shark Bait can truly entertain over all the obnoxious, white noise in my living room, it’s a welcome addition to anyone’s collection during this long, hot summer.


Sarah Zupko founded PopMatters, one of the largest independent cultural criticism magazines on the web, back in the Internet's early days of 1999. Zupko is a former Executive Producer for Tribune Media Services, the media syndication arm of the Tribune Company, and a 10-year veteran of Tribune. Her other pursuits involve writing historical fiction and research in the fields of Slavic and German history, as well as general European cultural and intellectual history. Zupko studied musicology, film, and drama at the University of Chicago and media theory at the University of Texas, where she received her M.A.

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