at SXSW 2008
March 14-16, 2008
By DAVID LAING
It's taken them a few years to get their shit together, but Magic Christian - the band that ex-Flamin' Groovies mainman Cyril Jordan formed in 2004, more than a-decade-and-a-half since the Groovies finally called it quits - has finally ARRIVED, and their numerous showcases at this year's SXSW festival found the band flexing newly found muscle and having themselves a ball.
With the all-star new rhythm section of Plimsouls guitarist Eddie Munoz on bass and no less a powerhouse than Clem Burke on drums, Cyril and singer Paul Kopf finally have the band capable of doing justice to Jordan's new batch of Stones, Beatles and Who-influenced tunes.
Kopf's newfound vocal strength has made a huge difference too - he's become a fine '60s punk-style snarler, channeling mid-60s Jagger and managing a cool Lennon and Daltrey when required as well. Early MC tunes like 'Too Close To Zero' and 'Right Back Where I Started' - which really only hinted at joys to come on the band's patchy 2005 debut - are now electrophonic sledgehammers to rival the best of the Groovies' 'Jumping In the Night' material. Which means they're fucking great.
2006 single 'Turn Up The Heat' and 'Tomorrow Never Comes' are two other corkers; both pay rare tribute to 'Aftermath' era-Stones. Fittingly, a storming 'Anyway You Want It' is a neat tribute to the passing of two of Dave Clark's Five (and on par with the Screaming Tribesmen's great '82 live version!), while covers of the Beatles' 'Anytime At All' (as good as Blue Ash!) and first-album Who nugget 'Out In The Street' are also fab. And of course any chance to hear Jordan play the greatest rock'n'roll song ever written - 'Shake Some Action' - is going to have me grinning like a fool.
Even if Jordan's current style of playing doesn't really suit the song - the single-guitar line-up finds him playing more chop and clang Townsend-stle rhythm than the sublime and stinging lead of old - it's still hard to beat. Being a hard-to-satisfy old bastard I'll dream of the day Eddie can get back to playing six-strings and Cyril gets his old Groovies mate George Alexander back on bass where he belongs, but til that day comes I'll be more than happy.
With a new album in the can - I don't think Clem and Eddie play on it unfortunately but if the 'Turn Up The Heat' single is any gauge it's still going to rock hard - Magic Christian are on the verge of delivering on some of their massive potential. For a long-time Groovies maniac like myself it probably would have been good enough to just have Jordan playing again, but to have his new outfit ripping it up with such fervour - in tiny bars on Austin's 6th St and Red River no less - was and is a mindblowing experience.
Check out the band's regularly updated myspace for cool sounds and vision, and their not-so-active website www.magicchristian.net for some way-cool graphics.
Magic Christian are exactly what rock'n'roll needs in this era of nth generation retreads. Will 2008 be their year?
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