CD Review of Those the Brokes by The Magic Numbers

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Those the Brokes
starstarstarno starno star Label: Astralwerks/EMI Records
Released: 2007
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The New York Times gushed after a sold-out Webster Hall gig this past spring that “when love goes heartbreakingly wrong, the melodies go right.” Such is the uncomplicated formula on the Magic Numbers’ second album, Those the Brokes, released internationally last November to wild acclaim, yet only last month here in the States. There just aren’t many new bands stamping out the late ‘60s/early ‘70s glee-pop sound, a la the Beach Boys, Burt Bacharach, and (the strongest, most oft-used comparison of all) the Mamas and the Papas. Touring like mad with everyone from Sonic Youth and Crowded House to the Who and U2, the proverbial shoes have never been bigger for these guys (and gals).

Whether breezy and upbeat on “You Never Had It” or dark and woozy like the cosmic drones of “Slow Down (The Way It Goes),” these dual Brit siblings stack two, three, and even four-part harmonies on oatmeal-thick textures of piano, bass, and retro guitar licks. Frontman and songwriter Romeo Stodart sounds vocally as much like Matthew Sweet as any of his apparent influences from the hippie era. While not everything is immediately a throwback (“Keep It in the Pocket” borrows as much from Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha” as it does anything by Lovin’ Spoonful), it’s harder to shake the Nixon-era vibe the deeper you get into the album.

The second half of the album, mind you, is not nearly as rewarding as the first, and the final few tracks are altogether disposable, especially the suicidal marathon called “Goodnight” (however appropriately titled). The fact that the Numbers have yet to fill an entire album with the sheer pop enormity that tracks like “This is a Song” and “Take a Chance” hint at does not reduce their forward momentum. These sibs are, by all means, poised for greatness, what with Stodart’s study-hall-love-note sentiment and, oh, those glorious cross-gender harmonies. Those the Brokes essentially picks up right where the debut left off two years ago, and while that’s not a bad thing at all, the expectations will continue to mount while we await their next trip.

~Red Rocker