Photo by Carrie Johnston
[W]ell-behaved punk-rockers are a sort of oxymoron, but maybe a punk fan over the age of thirty would appreciate the balance. Mrs. Magician’s thoroughly catchy debut album, “Strange Heaven,” leaves the impression of some misbehaved punk kids stretching out the legacy of their pop-punk predecessors. So much for first impressions. They now lie in that well-behaved camp attended by the other sage, post-punk, post-hardcore grown-ups like Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes, and Rocket From The Crypt. In fact, John Reis (who held a prominent hand in all aforementioned bands) produced and recorded “Strange Heaven.” and if you’re familiar with Swami Records, the familial ties are evident. Though not as grisly as RFTC, or jagged and forthright as Hot Snakes, Mrs. Magician shares many of the same characteristics. Such as being counter-cultural, subversive, and sometimes even offensive. Yet, they decorate those nasty bits with a smooth, sugary sheath of throwback-‘60’s garage pop that appeals to the young and misbehaved and the old and discerning alike.
The opening act, Charts, didn’t have to travel far to join the bill. The Portland locals had some stylistic similarities to Mrs. Magician; the ‘Ventures-y’ “waaaa… waaaa…” surf-rock style guitars, pained croons for the lover who’s gone, and conversely the lovers who “Got a good thing goin’,” and the odd homage to the coastal landscape. The effect, indeed plucked from a region considerably sunnier than Northwest Oregon, cradled the sparse crowd as they milled languidly about the venue. The band members were also well-behaved, or maybe it just seemed that way because the staff at Bunk didn’t mind the bassist stretching out on the bar for a little mid-song relaxation. But, I suppose if you’re home, in the spirit of Lil’ Wayne, you do whatchoo want.
The sound guy gnawed on tater tots and clicked about online during Mrs. Magician’s set instead of adjusting Jacob Turnbloom’s vocals into anything more than barely audible. It would have been nice to see some grins from those not yet exposed to their dark-jolly jingle about the non-existence of God. Alas, the happy verse, “Theeeeere’s noooooo Goooood! La la la!” was drowned by instruments blessed with more watts. An efficient cycle through their album (plus “Despicable Things” from their 7” with Night Marchers) with no surprises or banter felt a little cold, but to be fair, the temperament of the crowd didn’t warrant much more. We were happy enough to catch them on their West Coast tour on a random Wednesday so we could at least bounce to their album on our way to work with renewed appreciation on Thursday.
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