Music

Luscious Jackson: Magic Hour

Luscious Jackson's first album in almost 15 years was part of a fan-driven campaign. Unfortunately, much of Magic Hour will have fans likely wanting more.


Luscious Jackson

Magic Hour

Label: City Song
US Release Date: 2013-11-05
UK Release Date: 2013-11-04
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

The success rate for post-reunion albums is so small that it's no wonder that so many reformed bands pause before stepping foot in a studio. A reunion tour might be great for nostalgia (see the Pixies' first reunion tour of the early '00s), but once a band gets behind the studio glass, they are doing nothing less than risking their legacy.

Take Jane's Addiction. Before 2003, the band was elevated to an almost mythical status with their final "proper" album Ritual de lo Habitual. The album was considered by many to be one of the benchmark albums of the '90s. It seemed the band's brilliance could only be captured for a brief time and then was doomed to burn itself out. But then came 2003's Strays, and later The Great Escape Artist, and Jane's Addiction went from being legendary to utterly human, just as capable of releasing a weak album as any other band.

While not reaching that level of cultural influence in the '90s, Luscious Jackson managed to accomplish a feat few artists and bands can claim: not have a single weak album in their mix. Their output ranged from essential (see In Search of Manny, Fever In Fever Out) to highly recommended (Natural Ingredients, Electric Honey).

Now, 15 years after their last album, Luscious Jackson returns after a crowdsourcing campaign. The band raised funds to record their new album Magic Hour in less than three days. The album goes easy on the ears (a beginning-to-end listen through takes as long as a 30-minute commute), and all the key elements of Luscious Jackson are there. Gabby Glaser and Jill Cunniff's vocals still play off each other beautifully, and drummer Kate Schellenbach can still fill with the best of them. But there is something overly familiar with Magic Hour that sets in almost immediately.

The problems begin with the opening track. "You and Me" has a traditional "la-la-la" style chorus you've heard countess times before. Cunniff and Glaser's vocals reinforce the fact that you're listening to a Luscious Jackson song, but the opening track sounds like deep cut from previous albums. The second track "#1 Bum" is a tongue-in-cheek ode to the male posterior. The gender reversal (think a female Beasties version of "Tush") is amusing, but the corny line "I got your back" falls flat.

Things quickly get better. The third track "Show Us What You Got," jumps right out of the speakers and the guitar riff is instantly recognizable. The song also contains a lick-smacking good chorus.

The best parts of Magic Hour is when Luscious Jackson extend their view outside of the confines of a club dance floor. "We Go Back" finds a great balance between growing up without growing old. "We can't go back but we can go on," Cunniff sings. It's a theme that many seasoned artists address, but Glasser's guitar and Cunniff's breezy vocals make that declaration sound fresh and vital.

If only there were more moments like that on Magic Hour. Almost all of the songs feel like they're taking place within the confines of a dance floor - either meeting someone new or partying with old favorites. All of this taking place within three minutes and at a quick pace, designed to keep a listener's ear. However, some of the best moments in Luscious Jackson's catalog came when the band slowed things down and found a groove, particularly in songs like "Deep Shag" or the seven-minute slow burner "Take A Ride." In the end, Magic Hour spends too much of its brief time telling listeners how great the party's going to be. In Search of Manny and Natural Ingredients were the party.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image