on 15 March 2008
Magik Markers have built their reputation on searing, improvised noise mangling so it's not surprising that 'Boss' is being seen as quite a departure. There are actual songs throughout, even a piano-driven ballad for Christ's sake! But ignore any naysayers screaming 'sell out' because 'Boss' is a fantastic record.
Yes, Magik Markers have written an album of fully realised songs but 'Boss' is still uneasy listening. This is a progression from previous releases not a volte-face. The avant-garde brutality and feral visceral power are still present, but this time around Magik Markers have harnessed this to structure to great effect, creating their most diverse and accessible recording to date. Excellent opener 'Axis Mundi' sets the tone, its squalls of screeching feedback soon subsiding into a darkly trippy chug over more muted guitar noisescapes. 'Body Rot' is a punked-up fiery adrenaline rush, while 'Last of the Lemach Line' is nine glorious minutes of increasingly fevered intonations over lugubrious, hypnotic thrum and drone. Much of 'Boss' is infused with a sense of claustrophobia and discomforting dread that most readily calls to mind Sonic Youth's 'Bad Moon Rising'...perhaps not surprising considering that it was produced by Lee Ranaldo and is released on Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label. But the diversity of this album shines through...take the aforementioned piano ballad 'Empty Bottles', a moment of heartbroken beauty worthy of Chan Marshall, and the gorgeous 'Bad Dream/Hartford's Beat Suite', reminiscent of Flying Saucer Attack's gentle droning soundscapes. And then there's the streamlined, brooding psych-pop of 'Taste', arguably the most accessible Magik Markers have ever been.
So 'Boss' is an album that confounds expectations, and is all the better for that. Magik Markers are treading new ground without losing sight of where they've come from. And that's a journey well worth taking with them.