Hey! Rotate This. Vol. 1

Sunday, 09 September 2007

Ah, vinyl. There’s a certain bent appeal and romance in the mental image of a grooved, black disc spinning on a turntable. The debate regarding which medium sounds better (records vs. compact discs) may never be solved as there are convincing arguments on both sides, but like John Cusack said in High Fidelity—“fetish items are not unlike porn” and Magnificent Sevens Records exists to cater to that group of audiophiles who get a thrill out of a record’s warmer, truer sound (strictly on a mechanical level—it is possible, after all, for the trained ear to hear the hum of the circuitry in a CD player that just doesn’t exist on turntables). Magnificent Sevens’ owner Davy Love maintains his belief that those individuals who seek out vinyl tend to like music more because the medium is less disposable and requires more care and, while the label’s success has initially been centered more in the U.K. and Europe, business has been building steadily in North America. It is, however, very much a fan’s medium. “I saw a post recently from a Toronto journalist in a magazine somewhere,” says Love with a laugh. “And he was complaining that he received vinyl for review but couldn’t review it because he didn’t have a turntable and didn’t understand why any label would send out such an antiquated medium. He said he didn’t have a turntable, and didn’t know any other writers that did either.

“My knee-jerk response was that this guy shouldn’t even be a music journalist. I mean, that’s like meeting a carpenter that says he can’t fix something because he’s only got a Phillips-head screwdriver because he doesn’t have a Robertson.”

With that said, Echo would be remiss if it didn’t do things a little differently from the mainstream press and, in that spirit, here is a brief overview of Magnificent Sevens’ inaugural four releases.

The Mark Inside
“Circling The Drain” backed with “Liar”

Without a doubt the best pre-established band to release a single on Mag7s so far (their full-length, Static/Crash, has already been released on Maplemusic Recordings), both “Circling The Drain” and “Liar” (as with all Mag7s releases, both tracks are previously unreleased) make the most of a bass-heavy, lo-fi sounding indie-blues swing not unlike their album track “Dead Already.” The band methodically makes its way through each side and presents The Mark Inside at their most frayed—singer Chris Levoir shreds his vocal chords as the band builds a menacing undercurrent of noir-ish intensity right up until the closing seconds of “Liar.” In the end, the single functions as a teaser; if this is the direction that The Mark Inside is heading, it’ll make for an exhilarating sophomore LP.

Easy Targets
“I Don’t Want To Think” b/w “If You’re A Planet”

Unlike the other releases currently in the Mag7s catalogue that all make hay with the original 7” explosion of the 50s and 60s, Easy Targets recognize that there were other times in rock history when the format got a lot of use, particularly in the Southern California hardcore scene and the underground music of the 80s all over the U.S. that included the Minneapolis, Boston and Washington D.C. scenes which yielded Dinosaur Jr. and The Replacements. With its airy and subdued production and sighing vocals, “I Don’t Want To Think” comes close to Dinosaur Jr. (or maybe Screaming Trees) grandeur. Unlike the other 45s, Easy Targets don’t bow to the vintage production style favored by the others and the crisp, clean high-end sings on the first side. Unfortunately, the band does back-pedal into what seems to be the standard-issue love affair with psychedelic rock on the second side as the twisted carnival oompah throwaway “If You’re A Planet” fails to register, but side one alone is worth the price of admission.

Lipstick Machine
“Everytime Without You” b/w “Gimme The Time!”

Boasting the absolute cleanest production of the lot, Lipstick Machine owes the least to an older sound on “Everytime, Without You.” The band clearly isn’t interested in looking backward as flying synths carry the track into Brit-pop nirvana. The focus here is definitely on the fashion and not the rock as “Everytime” (the B-side, “Gimme The Time!” is guilty of this as well, albeit to a lesser degree) ensures that extra care is taken to remain the most original sounding of the original Mag7s stable, but sounds contrived at the same time. “Gimme The Time!” sounds marginally better. With a little more drive than the A-side, Lipstick Machine sounds slightly more urgent on the flipside with more crunchy and sweeping guitars, “Gimme The Time” is the more memorable of the two if only because it builds up a head of steam and progresses from point A to B to C without getting tedious. While the lyrics still aren’t much, “Gimme The Time!” gets over on a higher energy level with less kitsch and more crunch.

Action Makes
“Charley & The CFF” b/w “Get The Joke”

More than any of the other artists in the initial Mag7s catalogue, Action Makes seem suited to the 45rpm format for the simple reason that their sound is such a throwback to the material from the 60s. Sounding like the unholy bastard love child of 13th Floor Elevators and The Rolling Stones, “Charley & The CFF”—with its hand clapping, harmonica and “Sympathy For The Devil”-esque “whoo-oo”s is a raucous revival for both the 45rpm format and a welcome return to the sound and spirit of it as well. Clint Rogerson and Noel Fenn’s squirrelly guitar lines are the story here as they careen off of everything else in the mixes and keep the track nimble; it also happens to take the prize for the coolest song ever written about Roald Dahl’s glass elevator. Meanwhile, “Get The Joke” is a page ripped straight out of 60s psychedelic rock. Shimmering keyboards and coil reverb-drenched vocals recall the days when everybody wanted somebody to love but with the benefit of additional peripheral vision; there’s trepidation waiting in the wings of “Get The Joke” as Brian Boase’s drums melt down halfway through the song and the other instruments begin to evaporate. More than the other three, Action Makes have taken best to the original spirit of the 45rpm record and produced something honestly and unabashedly retro.

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