review archive

The Magic Numbers – The Borderline 7th December 2004

During the summer, I keep hearing whispers about The Magic Numbers, about their lush harmonising and their glittering West-Coast tinged melodies. How they’re lead by beardy boy-wonder Romeo and how they’re capturing hearts whenever they play. Hell, gotta get me a piece of that.
So winter rolls around and here I am waiting expectantly at The Magic Numbers’ third and final show of a three-week residency at The Borderline. The adoration that’s built up for this band over the last few weeks is palpable. So are they worth it? The word that keeps springing to mind is ‘sparkling’ - from the fairy lights coiling at either side of the stage to the twinkle in Romeo’s eyes as he regards an audience eager for his songs, to the glinting, glimmering sounds.

What's so funny eh? eh?
Swing yer bass

To Romeo’s left is his sister Michelle swinging her bass and hair like a cheery Janis Joplin, on his right is Angela who adds more luxuriant vocals and percussion. Behind them on drums is Angela’s brother Sean. Yep, it’s a family affair. A lot of grinning goes on onstage, knowing smiles between the band members and joyful beams directed at the audience. It’s all a bit unnerving really, what’s so funny? What do they know? They’re making me paranoid, this is London you know, we don’t do smiling here. Argh. Take deep breaths, here comes the music…

Proceedings are kicked off with ‘The Mule‘ which melds The Beach Boys with the Smiths before heading off into the stratosphere, it’s cutely psychedelic, warm and fuzzy rather than stark staring bonkers. There are big smiles all round for ‘Forever Lost‘ - flickering sunshine West Coast rock which wouldn’t be out of place on the Elephant 6 label. We get spangly country swing for ‘Long Legs’ and then a gorgeous duet between Romeo and Angela on ‘I See You, I See Me’. It’s not quite Gram and Emmy…no it’s better, ‘cos it’s here and now and fab.

There’s 70s AM radio pop mixed with Love for ‘Which Way To Happy‘, there’s Angela breaking out the violin, then a melodica, then chime-bars; there’s sweetie-pie soul, tricksy rhythms and always there are those delicious harmonies. Then there’s ‘Hymn To Her’ the current limited edition single full of swooning loveliness, Flamey Lipsiness and the two girls on a dual chime-bar attack. Set closer, ‘Love Me Like You’ is a masterclass in the artistry of building big towards your chorus as it explodes in a shower of sparks. There’s just time for an encore featuring a new song and more Gram/Emmy crooning, shimmering duetting for ‘Wheels On Fire’.

Some swooning lovliness, yesterday
Does exactly what it says on the tin.
These are the kind of songs that wrap their arms around you, dry your eyes and take you for a spin, it’s like The Polyphonic Spree developed some finely-honed song-writing skills, or The Mamas and Papas got airlifted into the 21st Century. The Magic Numbers don’t play the kind of life-changing, goose-bumping, sky-scraping sounds that their hype might suggest, they’re much warmer, more intimate than that. It’s not quite what I’d imagined, but exactly what I’d hoped for.
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