They were a breath of fresh air when they first appeared, were The Magic Numbers. In a music world dominated by angled cheekbones and sharp haircuts, the two sets of siblings didn’t seem to give a toss that they were a bit overweight, nor did they care about the fact that they seemed to have just stepped from the ’70s, so hirsute was their appearance.
And then, most importantly, there was the music. The Magic Numbers’ self-titled debut was a gloriously bittersweet thing, with gorgeous harmonies and jangly guitars to the forefront, it was only on closer examination that you realised most songs were about Romeo Stodart’s seeming unending heartbreak. Yet it was all so lovely that listening to it became a rather life-enhancing experience.
Now they’re back with a second album, and it’s like they’ve never been away. Which, in effect, they haven’t. Less than eighteen months after that debut, Those The Brokes continues the Stodart and Gannon template in an almost identical way to its predecessor.
With such a short time between albums, you’d be forgiven for thinking the band were overflowing with ideas that they wanted to record immediately. Yet this doesn’t appear to be the case – there are too many tracks on here that seem unfinished in a way, content to noodle around for far too long (three songs here exceed the 6 minute mark) without making too much of an impression. Most damningly of all, Romeo Stodart appears to have forgotten to pen that many memorable tunes.
Yet things do get off to a great start with This Is A Song. A slow building introduction features a tinkly piano before developing into a gorgeous rush of a song and a typical Stodart opening line of “I don’t wanna tell her that I awake in the dark, lost in the beat of my heart”. It’s the old favourite lyrical subject of unrequited love again, but it’s done so beautifully that it’s hard to fault them.
The album’s first single, Take A Chance, is similarly impressive, featuring Romeo begging the listener to “take a chance with a woman who lets you”. Angela Gannon and Michele Stodart’s backing vocals add to the dreamy effect, and it’s the sort of record you can put on during the dark winter mornings to make the journey to work seem worthwhile.
Yet the problem with Those The Brokes is that there’s not enough moments like this. Carl’s Song, named after late Beach Boy Carl Wilson, has a horribly twee introduction, and just becomes annoying to listen to after a minute or two. while Angela Gannon’s solo effort Undecided is extended well beyond it’s natural length by lasting for nearly 7 minutes. In fact the mid-section of the album is weighed down by some long, meandering tracks that sound like a refuge from a long-forgotten soft rock classic from the mid-70s.
Things do get back on track with Take Me Or Leave Me, Michele Stodart’s string-backed ode to unrequited love – that old topic again – which is a return to the bittersweet Magic Numbers we know and love and Moving On, which almost unbelievably has an introduction redolent of The Buzzcocks. Yet even this would have been far more effective had it lasted for 3 minutes, as opposed to the 5 minutes it runs for on the album.
It’s all a bit of a shame, because when they hit top form there aren’t many bands around to touch them – the heartbreaking All I See is proof enough of that. Yet Those The Brokes, especially when compared with the modern day classic that preceded it, is sadly a bit of a damp squib.