And this week’s returning rock dinosaurs are…Magnum. But with their return comes a furrowed brow, as for me at least it remains a struggle to work out what made them successful in the first place, as they sold bewilderingly large amounts of 1988’s Wings Of Heaven album.
That’s not to begrudge them success – clearly they worked hard for it – but even their best material has struggled to stand up melodically, and often their lyrics and presentation are emotionally empty.
And yet, nearly twenty years on from their biggest success but only two years since the last album, Princess Alice has a broken record to go with her arrow. And though the personnel are pretty much intact for Magnum, creative inspiration seems thin on the ground.
Most exasperating of all is singer Bob Catley’s continual references to ‘them’. In Like Brothers We Stand, “the future was planned, they’ve taken it all”. And ‘they’ are referred to a lot more in the album. So who are ‘they’? Blair and Bush? Thatcher and Reagan? As it seems time has stood still in Magnum’s world, it might be Herbert Hoover and Ramsay MacDonald for all we know!
And then there’s the music, which does the job if you’re a fan – but fails on many counts if you’re not. The band is confident and assured as ever, but their material is weak and often falls into dirge. Be Strong promises a bit more rock for once, but is let down by the complete lack of a killer chorus. This is where Thank You For The Day steps in, more convincing but too little, too late, as by then the apocalyptic vocals, vacuous guitar solos and powerful but rather random drum fills have started to wear very thin indeed.
Just as the bottom of the barrel is in site things get worse and we hit it full on. This is squarely the responsibility of Inside Your Head, a ballad of sorts that could only be useful at a sorrowful, drunken closing time. The subject is a man who’s lived his life “every day, just the same” and is a “father to the family”, but seems to have a hit a brick wall. With a chorus like the one offered here it’s no wonder.
Catley’s vocals are impressive but too self-important. It’s all very well him exalting you to “be strong”, but in truth that’s what you need to survive this album!
It would seem there’s still a hardcore set of Magnum fans out there – otherwise why make the record? And yet in these ‘days of no trust’ – no change from the band’s prophetic lyrics in 1988 then – some things can be trusted after all. Chief among those things – Magnum will never change. But today’s rockers have moved on to far more exciting pastures – take just Muse and Kasabian for instance, hell, even Snow Patrol’s softer moments. All would be shortchanging their fans desperately if they served up this sort of record.