1. Yesterday's Seen Better Days, 2. Heatstroke, 3. Lay Low, 4. Will Scarlet, 5. Short Circuit, 6. Circumstances, 7. New Kicks, 8. Tender Throes, 9. Spilled Milk, 10. Spent Nights
a CHILD but in life yet a DOCTOR in love is the astonishing debut album by the San Francisco sextet Magic Bullets. The record is a tour-de-force with 10 songs that make friends with the rich traditions of post-punk (Gang of Four), new wave (early Talking Heads) and C86 (The Wedding Present), whilst introducing themselves to contemporaries influenced by these scenes (The Walkmen, French Kicks) with their own secret handshake. Singer Philip Benson boasts a poised, dynamic croon, yet does not overshadow the own band's intricate musicianship — a crafty layering of Felt-esque melodies onto Bizarro-era chords.
"Yesterday's Seen Better Days" launches the record with a C86 meets "Ticket To Ride" guitar riff, coyly anticipating Benson's dramatic album entrance. Benson's voice — energetic, yet inconsolable — coaxes the listener into a world in which deceptively bright colors are used to draw bleak pictures.
"Heatstroke" is an unforgettable renewal of the classic new wave territory paved by The Stranglers and Power, Corruption and Lies-era New Order. Matthew Kallman's pulsating keys and Colin Dobrin's cleverly effortless drum beat set the stage onto which Benson drops his soapbox to make opaque worldly observations: "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".
Nathan Sweatt's propulsive, melodic bass lines and Dobrin's jagged hi-hat rhythms fuel the bounding fury of "Will Scarlet," a song that climaxes in perfect Gang of Four fashion, nearly spinning right off the grooves of the Entertainment LP.
Magic Bullets dim the lounge lights on "Short Circuit," a brief excursion in which Benson coyly narrates over Corey Cunningham's naked guitar chords on the lowlights and gut-wrenching false starts upon meeting a potential paramour: "My stare was there but my words were somewhere else / Reading faces can be such a tricky thing".
"Circumstances" launches Side 2 with a clean jangle reminiscent of early Feelies and More Songs About Buildings And Food-era Talking Heads, building measure upon measure to the bridge whereupon Cunningham and Ryan Lynch's guitars blister and Benson's voice bursts at the seams, restlessly shedding excess energy with every syllable.
The clever union of Cunningham's aggressive chord-play — taking cues from David Gedge and Johnny Marr — and Lynch's delicate guitar melodies — influenced by Felt and Orange Juice — is on full display in songs like "Lay Low," "New Kicks," and the album closer "Spent Nights." On the latter, an elegantly crafted piece, Benson-as-narrator opts to take charge of the fate of his love affair. With his stately tenor Benson resignedly dismisses the object of his affections for her pettiness and foibles: "I know how stubborn you can be / It comes with the territory / A couple of broken hearts / And you think it's some conspiracy / It's not a conspiracy".
Already gaining a huge buzz in the Bay area, Magic Bullets' debut record is one of the breakthrough albums of 2007.