Margot and the Nuclear So & So's: Slingshot to Heaven

A sweet mess made out of heaven and hell, equal parts bitter and sweet, beautiful and stoned.

Margot and the Nuclear So & So's

Slingshot to Heaven

Label: Mariel Recording Company
US Release Date: 2014-04-22
UK Release Date: 2014-05-05
Label website
Artist website

A funny thing happened to Margot and the Nuclear So and So's on their way to major label acceptance. Their story is common enough for a band of their stature: indie, folk-tinged band gets noticed, major label signing from Epic Records follows, band isn't happy with major label influence and return to self-releasing subsequent albums through their own label. Margot then, it seems, proceed to do whatever the hell they want to exorcise the bad taste of major label out of their mouths. Richard Edwards (the remaining center of MATNSASs), isn't trendy and he isn't one to cave into demands for an appealing, radio-friendly sound; 2010's left-turn into guitar rock, Buzzard, is proof of that. Thankfully, now, Edwards has settled down and tempered some of the previous musings that turned some listeners away from an otherwise accessible band. Slingshot to Heaven, the band's latest, is quieter, more precise, and shows off strength musically and melodically, but it's taken down by some lower lyrical standards that Edwards lets slip through.

There are songs of untempered folk promise and quiet beauty that Margot has carefully pined over. "Hello San Francisco", the album's low-key opener begins earnestly with Edwards clearing his throat and trading a yelp for a sweet, submissive ode to the hazy, pot smoke air of a California landscape. "Flying Saucer Blues" pulls blood from the same vein; an echo-laden refrain with an unhurried acoustic strum and harmony vocals culled from long nights spent missing someone, or some nameless mirage. And "Swallowin' Light Beams", the song whose lyrics give the LP its title, outshines Sky Blue Sky-era Wilco, and does it all without the perverted guitar lines of Nels Cline.

A good three-fourths of Slingshot keeps to these templates, ground that Edwards makes the most of and tracks that highlight his inherent ability to keep a simple melody rolling along through an otherwise sparse album of comedown songs for hangover-induced mornings and sunken-eyed sunrises. When other instruments do show up—harmonica, simple snare beats, double-picked guitar lines—they are always in the service of the Edwards's winsome melodies. The regions between verse and chorus contain light years and dust particles from space; remnants of the flying saucers Edwards calls out on the LP cover and in song. Or, more appropriately, they sound like fragments of Edwards's appreciation for all things drug-related; a lyrical crux that he falls to song after song.

Drugs and their presence are as indelible to Slingshot as Edwards's pacified vocals. No surprise here; Margot's song titles give their subjects away easily (e.g., "Children's Crusade on Acid", "Jen Is Bringin' the Drugs", "Prozac Rock"). But it's irksome when Edwards's relies on drugspeak and non-sequiturs to fill gaps in the verses, especially when we know that Edwards can pen a lyrical gut punch when he needs to. Case in point, on "Bleary-eye-d Blue", the menace behind a line like, "If everything's fine / Please stop screaming so loud" is muted behind a stoned delivery. The drugs, it seems, do work, but they work better when their effects are felt in the music and not printed on the page. But song after song, from "Hello, San Francisco" to "Los Angeles", Edwards's crutch is getting high, sketching the results, and hoping they relate somehow. Who knows what it means to get "high as a cabbage head" or feel the effects of the druggy stupor in "I Can’t Sleep My Eyes Are Flat". And when those lines fail, Edwards utilizes the most banal of rock lyric tropes: repetition and sexy women ("Gettin' Fat", "Long Legged Blonde Memphis"). Tossing out lines like "I'll kill you" after "Hang the stars from the ceiling / Turn the moon into powder" ("Wedding Song") isn't provocative or indicative of a larger mantra, it's just whimsical and lazy; a fill-in where more empty space would suit.

Lyrically, Edwards is smarter than he comes across on Slingshot to Heaven. True, his musical freedom to write and record in his own studio, on his own terms, have lead him to rediscover vital elements that once helped Margot rise above the indie folk/rock pack. But, to paraphrase a ridiculously lengthy Manchester Orchestra album title, genius often needs an editor. Having a major label editor is what made Not Animal more cohesive and worthwhile than the band's preferred statement Animal. Slingshot to Heaven hits its highs in all the right ways (pun intended), and in many ways, it's the Margot LP that most of us have waited for for some time. It stumbles on redundancy, but always falls gracefully, in perfect time with Edwards careening musical muses; it's a sweet mess made out of heaven and hell, equal parts bitter and sweet, beautiful and stoned.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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

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