Elefant| The Black Magic Show | Hollywood Records
Rather than churning out an album that you would love to love, or even something that you would love to hate, 80s throwback gurus Elefant have crafted The Black Magic Show – a record that jumps between infectious and infuriating. The feedback and the synth make the album – literally. Lead singer Diego Garcia abandons once sincere lyricism for what now sounds like accurate imitation, exchanging his Robert Smith-inspired croon for a drone that seems to mock the genre. While The Black Magic Show’s piano arrangements and drum work play out as tighter than ever – thanks in large part to the technical wizards that come with signing to a major label – Garcia comes across as both one-dimensional and syncopated. Nearly all of the album’s tracks present Garcia as someone cornered by his own arrangements, talk-singing his way through painful couplets like, “Walking on the beach is so romantic / Kissing in the sand is so fantastic.” (“Sirens”)
The New Yorkers’ follow-up to their oh-so-promising debut, Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid, trumps its predecessor only in its consistency. Where Sunlight harbored some real new wave gems – such as “Misfit” and “Bokkie” – it also fell flat in plenty of other places. Herein, Garcia and his bandmates seem to try a little harder at least, making for a record that flows better and simply suffers from poor execution.
At its cheesiest, The Black Magic Show still manages to hang on to some of the quirkiness that made Sunlight as commendable as it was. On “Uh Oh Hello” Garcia abandons the whole tortured artist thing for a poppy rendezvous that falls somewhere between Elastica and Journey. Even the radio-ready “Lolita” – complete with allusions to all things pedophilic – manages to work. Over cascading cymbals and keyboards, Garcia half-wails and half-speaks his way through lines like, “I was watching you for hours / Standing there beside the pool / When you wear those pretty dresses / I forget the girl in you” with an element of glibness that gets lost elsewhere on the album.
Next time out Elefant should simply save themselves a bit more room for expression, and perhaps not take their throwback show so damn seriously. With Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, the Killers and countless others crafting careers out of Morrissey impersonations, The Black Magic Show truly needed to shine to make an impression. Likewise, if it was not for this throng of neo-new wavers, one might even be able to dub the disc a guilty pleasure. Instead, most of us will probably just shelve it in exchange of one of Elefant’s more innovative contemporaries; Bloc Party, anyone?
[Aly Comingore’s infectious style and smile will be missed.]