Magic Bullets | A Child But in Life Yet a Doctor in Love (Words on Music)

Songs that embody an intricate use of musical theory coupled with thoughtful lyrics make up the debut CD of this San Francisco sextet. Classic undertones of lost love and semblances of heartbreak balance out compositions of odd celebration and poignant advice for the soul-sick.


The first official release of the Magic Bullets since their 2004 formation offers a darkly attractive look into post-punk and new wave styled tunesmithing. While the concept of a crooner working in the rock n' roll genre isn't new by any means, it is refreshing to hear it done well in the very clean and simply beautiful voice of front man Philip Benson, who is backed by five instrumentalists. Though this fact would normally have quite a few listeners bracing for an over-complicated rhythm section and dominating solos, Magic Bullets is able to manage without the usual crowded sound of a six piece while still allowing each of its members to have a distinct musical voice. Cory Cunningham and Ryan Lynch each add their own guitar styles, Nathan Sweatt provides sometimes brooding and sometimes hopping bass lines, Colin Dobin adds drum beats, and Matthew Kallman fills out the sound with keys.

The emulation of all that was good from 1980s new wave is manifested in several tracks, but most of all in the omni-relevant "Heatstroke," which could speak with equal validity to a number of modern circumstances by offering near-parlando style verses and the chorus "People refuse to make do when they lose/ Something they thought they'd never find again/ They refuse to remember way back when/ That something it did not belong to them." Still other tracks speak of the difficulty involved in infatuation, such as the interlude "Short Circuit," which offers that "Self esteem can be such a tricky thing / I know ‘crush' is only used by sixteen year olds" and also address more powerful and striking attractions such as the upbeat yet vaguely sad "Tender Throes."

Much of the band's appeal is found in listening to the CD and having a strange sense of déjà vu as if you've heard the songs before and remember liking them, yet can't quite put your finger on when or where. The realization is that Magic Bullets has simply been successful in its attempt to draw from genres in the past while injecting a modern pertinence into their sound. Each selection of the CD builds from the last to form a collection of songs with lyrics that are connected to one another and at the same time introspective on their own. Hearing the last track can be likened to turning the last page of a favorite book, where there is a disappointment that it is over and yet ambivalence with the delight that you get to listen to it again.

The band itself lists as influences such names as the Walkmen, Wedding Present, French Kicks, Gang of Four, and Talking Heads. The marriage of styles between these signposts is pulled off expertly and sets up Magic Bullets as a name that may appear on similar lists given by future artists. Taken as a whole or a few tracks at a time, A Child But in Life Yet a Doctor in Love is an incisively intoxicating batch of deep and well-formed pieces of musical styling that compliment skillful and meditative lyrics. B+ | Jason Neubauer

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply