[1 June 2006]
If there was any justice, Popboomerang wouldn’t be known only to a handful of people outside of Australia. But, justice can be blind sometimes. The label’s latest release is Resistance Is Futile from Magneto, basically a “super group” featuring members of Groundswell, P76 and Alcotomic. And as has been the case with many of the label’s previous releases, this one again is full of pretty, smart and consistently shiny pop-rock. As a result, your resistance to this album should be futile. And it definitely will be, at least for the first few tracks, where harmonies meld perfectly into hook-riddled tracks, with rather barren arrangements free of gimmicks and gadgetry. Magneto set the album off on exactly the right course with “Underground”, a tune that seems to fall somewhere between the Kinks and the Go-Betweens.
Magneto is also quite capable of bringing a summery, warm California sound to the proceedings, as with the layered harmonies on “Shooting Star”, where at times two or three of the band’s four members are singing the chorus. Songs that summery can be too sugar-coated, enough so that they come off as almost horrid, like Lenny Kravitz’s “California”. Here though, Magneto are smart enough to leave the arrangement a little bit looser, resembling the Byrds more than Brian Wilson and the musician-cum-lawsuit-addicted other members of the Beach Boys. Those sandy beaches are quickly forgotten for the dark, dreary garages of New York, with the fun and fulfilling “Let It Go”, a quick and quaint punk-ish rocker that gets the legs going to match the drummer’s 4/4 time, while eerily bringing to mind Bryan Adams’ “We’re Gonna Win”.
The first miscue is of the album is “Stronger Everyday”, a slightly roots-y, mid-tempo pop piece that would be best left to Johnny Rzeznick and his other dolls that go ‘goo goo.’ Pop-rock albums like this do tend to follow a pattern, so it’s not surprising when “Stronger Everyday” leads into another mid-tempo tune, one that resembles less Goo Goo Dolls and a bit more of Paul Westerberg’s early solo work. A strong melody and a conservative amount of guitar licks make “Living On The Moon” a very good effort. The song never falters or rises at any point, content to keep an even keel from beginning to end. Magneto’s lead singer has a certain rasp in his vocals that does bring Bryan Adams to mind, particularly on “Falling”, another mid-tempo song without much bite or punch to it.
At this point in the album you don’t know which way the last half will turn out: half has been very good and the other half somewhat so-so. “Heart Of Mine” is next, and unfortunately sounds tired and clichéd, lacking any sense of energy. It’s a rather run-of-the-mill performance, with a chorus sounds rather bland, resembling Teenage Fanclub on a very, very off day.
Magneto by now has lost the plot, so the song title “Everything Is Gone” seems apt. It’s another syrupy acoustic-roots-rock track that seems like it could have been churned out in 10 minutes. Sadder is how it seems devoid of any “live” feeling; it sounds too produced. But saddest of all is how even “Everything Is Gone” stands head and shoulders above the next track: a sappy, stale pop ballad titled “Not a Day Goes By”. It’s of the sort best left for people like Howie Day, or John Mayer maybe. At this point in the album, the only bone Magneto throws to fans of the album’s earliest songs is the rollicking, Stereophonics-esque “Prima Donna” and the uplifting finale “Incomplete”, which demonstrate they can deliver some great songs when they want to. But often this album is too safe: decent but not amazing.