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Maggi, Pierce and E.J | For (Blue) (EMP)
So, I open my parcel of CDs for review and, amongst the packets of cash and drugs, is a disc with a hand-scribbled cover, featuring the faux child-drawn logo of the band â?? three grinning faces with circles for eyes, the woman with eyelashes. My heart sinks. I read the back 'Dedicated to and inspired by the life and music of Jeff Buckley'. My hopes slump even further â?? what derivative mawkish tosh is this going to be? Cynicism rules â?? until I eventually get around to playing the disc, then my heart lifts, hope soars! It sounds damn fine. (Talk about not judging a book by its cover, again.) Not sounding a lot like Mr Buckley Jr. exactly - not until track fourteen, This Year's Obsession, does anything sound self-consciously Jeffish â?? but sophisticated and involving. Opening track Ferdinand, is about listening to Joni Mitchell's 'Blue', in fact, and has a loping jazziness redolent of 'Court and Spark'. And you can't get better redolence than that. The upbeat sophisto-jazz flavours might remind you of David Crosby's recent nepotistic CPR incarnation, but without the cutesiness. And this is scads better. We're talking jazzy in feel here, though, not in sound, as there is nearly no piano and no brass at all. Guitars propel, and sometimes chime, and didgeridoos, banjos, a harp, a mandolin and a saw add texture, as do some lush vocal arrangements. Maggi is the vocalist, with the chaps coming in for harmony vocals and beefy counterpoint occasionally. Like on standout track Space, a banjo bouncing tale of a less than perfect relationship, where they come in at the end overlapping singing "Maybe another lifetime." It's so rare to find music this cheerful that doesn't make you want to do yourself in. Not Hurting is another goody, with guitar chime-strum rhythms and rippling drums behind, bits where the vocals fall away and we revel in the music, some faint Irish pipes... Then it's over all-too-soon, to be followed by Butterfly, a song written soon after hearing of Mr Buckley's being swept away. And even this is impressive and lovely, and not at all cloying. There are three previous discs to discover too, available from www.mpeband.com, as well as a range of t-shirts and boxer shorts. (How can a band you've never heard of, not on a major label, have their own boxer shorts? It just doesn't seem right.) This here disc is also available in London from Rough Trade, or Totem Records in Stoke Newington. I have, in case you've not noticed, fallen for this one big time. It is the very best album, no contest, I've ever heard by a band who have their logo on underwear.
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002