Formerly known as The Setting Suns for last year’s introductory EP, one swift name change later and Adam Franklin of Swervedriver and Sam Fogarino of Interpol return with their full-length debut as Magnetic Morning.
Not a lot to choose between the two names really. Both conjure up visions of the ripe old days of shoegaze bands, and with a voice as distinctive as Franklin’s it is difficult not to be reminded of albums such as Mezcal Head and Ejector Seat Reservation.
Jimmy LaValle (The Album Leaf), Josh Stoddard (The Still Out) and F.A. Blasco join Franklin and Fogarino on the recording, an impressive looking line-up of indie rock scenesters. And this is a beautifully played and produced album by any measure.
The album gets off to a curious opening, with Spring Unseen emerging almost instantly formed as Franklin moans, “I glimpsed the world in microcosm in your eyes”. The track ends as suddenly as it began, but for its short two-minute running time it offers a glimpse of the beautifully wrought music of which Magnetic Morning are capable.
The weaving guitar line on At A Crossroads, Passive, conjures up a fragile atmosphere that gives added weight to the despairing note of Franklin’s lyrics: “I walk to the ends of the earth/For what it’s worth/But it never ends”. The swelling grandeur of the finale fairly rips out of the speakers and it all sounds very lovely.
Where Magnetic Morning trip up is when they abandon the widescreen atmospherics and attempt more melody-driven songs. This was always a sticking point for Swervedriver in their heyday, and little has changed on slight indie rock songs such as Indian Summer, No Direction and The Wrong Turning. Franklin seems to lose interest sometimes, his voice upping a register and losing the Jim Morrison style croon that he nails so easily.
Motorway, their loose reworking of Kraftwerk‘s Autobahn, is also a misstep. The track quickly turns into a grinding hard rock number that goes nowhere particularly fast and completely loses the charm of the original.
Too much of A.M. promises but does not deliver. The melodic drift of their cover of The Shrangi-La’s Out In The Streets threatens to build into an imposing wall of sound but instead continues its lethargic meandering to the end of the song.
It is only on the final track, Athens 5, that Franklin and Fogarino try something different, mixing some of the tense urban rock of Interpol with the overwrought atmospherics of Swervedriver. It’s a twitchy, hypnotic way to end the album, but leaves the listener wishing for more of the same.
A.M. may pick up some takers for fans of both protagonists’ main bands but there is little here that will tempt the casual listener. Perhaps when Franklin and Fogarino decide to shake off their inhibitions and give free rein to their passions we will be lauding Magnetic Morning, rather than showering them with faint praise.