Ah, The Magic Numbers. Remember them? Two sets of siblings, lots of hair, blissful harmonies and jangly guitars. And Richard Bacon upset them once by joking about their weight. Whether they responded by comparing Mr Bacon to Alan Partridge is sadly unrecorded.
After releasing two albums in as many years, it all seemed to dry up for the Stodart and Gannon siblings. A poorly received second album, Those The Brokes, seemed to dampen the ardour of those infatuated by the band’s debut and it was impossible to avoid thinking that here was an album that may have been rushed into.
The same can’t be said of The Runaway. Four years after Those The Brokes, The Magic Numbers have eventually returned – and you’ll probably not be surprised to hear that it’s not a massive departure. Thankfully, they mainly play to their strengths, and it certainly seems as if the rest has done them a power of good, Romeo’s various Africa Express adventures notwithstanding.
One of the most appealing things about The Magic Numbers is that cracked vulnerability ever present in Romeo Stodart’s vocals, and he’s as poignant as ever here. It’s even better when some lovely vocal interplay with sister Michelle is added – as in the gorgeous Why Did You Call and the swooning harmonies of A Start With No Ending.
Possibly the most effective moment is the opening track, The Pulse. Veritably soaked in strings (arranged by the late Robert Kirby, who worked on Nick Drake‘s Five Leaves Left), it’s a brave choice to open the album, being stately, melancholic and sorrowful. Yet it sets the tone of the record perfectly – even if it does reappear rather pointlessly as an instrumental in a ‘hidden track’ at the end.
As with Those The Brokes though, a lack of memorable tunes is what makes The Runaway a bit of a disappointment. Restless River meanders as much as its title would suggest while Dreams Of A Revelation is stymied by its clunky title and doesn’t get much better, being over-saturated by the strings which make it a rather saccharine listen.
The album is a lot more successful when the band just concentrate on what made their debut such a delight – A Start With No Ending is melodic and catchy, and its driving chorus could easily see the band back in the charts. Similarly, Throwing My Heart Away sees Angela Gannon make a welcome appearance on lead vocals, and its cracked, sweet nature will remind all fans why they fell in love with the band in the first place.
The Runaway is a beautifully crafted album, which will no doubt make a lovely soundtrack to many people’s summer. It may not touch the heights of the band’s debut, nor is it the most innovative or exciting album you’ll hear all year. While it may not be enough to garner any new fans, existing devotees will feel that the wait has been worth it.