Sometimes, in the music biz, ‘new’ artists are only new with regard to our personal exposure. Considering the modern industry habit of dribbling out singles and EPs instead of proper albums, it, therefore, behooves a journalist to sample a band’s previous work in hopes of constructing a comprehensive 45-minute music experience. Such is the case with South London’s Margot, whose latest EP Inertia meshes perfectly with their prior output in eerie Fleetwood Mac/”Hypnotized” fashion.
Given its outsize influence on the songwriter’s art, 1970s soft-rock gets short shrift in both the history books and today’s commercial landscape. Put aside cloying post-Vietnam purveyors of sugar-folk like Terry Jacks or Gilbert O’Sullivan, and we’re left with some damn fine troubadours: Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, Harrys Nilsson and Chapin, Neil Diamond. Reading their biographies, one learns that most of these guys lived harder and faster than many of their more-notorious ’70s rock contemporaries. They also boast devoted fans in some surprising quarters. One famed alt-rock icon (J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr, if memory serves) once claimed that he would die a happy man if he could write a song half as good as Diamond’s “Play Me”. Who wouldn’t, right?
That’s what makes Margot’s short body of work so compelling. Plenty of acts strive for old-school ’60s or ’70s authenticity; very few nail it. 1973’s aforementioned single “Hypnotized” represents one of that decade’s most unearthly and hallucinatory cuts, as disorienting today as it sounded back then. Neither strictly prog nor folk in pedigree, the song – penned by Bob Welch, another late ’70s balladeer – inhabits an eldritch sweet spot between the two genres. Of course, once Nicks and Buckingham joined up, Fleetwood Mac abandoned the cool-kid lysergia for more popular and lucrative pastures. But take that surreal post-Leary motif, add some pandemic angst, and a certain LSD-fueled demographic will find Margot irresistible.
Inertia is their recent meditative release, following 2020’s slightly more dynamic Margotzeko. Combined with a few floating singles, these two EPs blend smoothly together for a 12-song/50-minute excursion into mind-expanding bliss, effortlessly straddling modern dream-pop and early ’70s psychedelia. If you’re worried, this is NOT your daddy’s progressive rock — no indulgent solos, bloated Moody Blues, or King Crimson flourishes here. Margot is a quiet mountain lake, a lonely summer meadow, and an abandoned farmhouse blanketed in snow. Soft? Sure. But satisfying and occasionally thrilling.
Start with Alex Hannaway’s spooky, tranquilized vocals. His disarming inflection suffuses our reptile minds, worming its way into the subconscious with zero offense. The late Eric Woolfson’s incomparable velvet intimacy with Alan Parsons may never be equaled, but it does come to mind, which is no small compliment. Meanwhile, thanks to drummer Ben Andrewes’ 24-bit mix, the guitar and rhythm section flawlessly support Hannaway in his quest for enlightenment.
Margot is all about atmosphere, so praising individual tracks feels beside the point. “Fame” and the ominous, minor-key “Watercolour” make up Inertia’s strongest cuts, spinning round and round with no bottom. The band’s energetic near-anthem would have to be “Man Love” from Margotzeko, while “Waltz” features one of the most haunting guitar refrains in recent memory. Singles “Walk With Me” and “Featherweight” are definitely worth checking out as well.
A common pitfall of hallucinogens is increased tolerance; that hasn’t happened in this case, with both EPs remaining in heavy rotation. This isn’t exactly driving music, so any gangsta-rap or Viking-metal fans are urged to steer clear. But the lofty music-snob gods hereby award Margot an extra rating point anyhow, just for sounding like no other act this year.