Magic Lantern Platoon

[Not Not Fun; 2010]

Styles: psychedelic, jam, \m/ r’n’r \m/
Others: Sun Araw, Funkadelic, Wooden Shjips

Popular rock music in America is dying a slow, painful death. And deservedly so. Years and years of inbreeding due to a continual narrowing of the canon — thanks to classic and modern rock radio — has left rock in 2010 a boneheaded traditionalist wearing distressed jeans and a Danko Jones t-shirt. Its been over FORTY YEARS since Hendrix lit his guitar on fire, and “Whole Lotta Love” is as played out as a John Philip Sousa march. No wonder rock has lost much of its appeal with today’s youth. The most visible remnant of rock’s relevance is now the rap star who is larger than life without ever having scorched a single solo, a “no talent ass-clown” who could never hope to write a grandiose rock opera.

So it’s fitting that the backlash against rockism — against all the testosterone, close-mindedness, and thoughtless idol worship — sees rock retreating to the fertile garages and modest practice spaces where it first flourished. Young roustabouts puffing on joints, making fire with their guitars instead of lighting their guitars on fire. Magic Lantern is one such band, and with Platoon, their second widely available full-length, they’re keeping the rock ’n’ roll flame burning.

If the humidity-soaked reverb vocals, dreamy organ washes, and guitar wah-wah sound familiar, that’s due to the presence of Cameron Stallones (a.k.a. Sun Araw). In fact, knowing their love for the auteur, rockists might appreciate the assertion that Magic Lantern is mainly a Cameron Stallones vehicle. His fingerprints are all over this record, and it’s certainly worthwhile to compare it to Sun Araw’s On Patrol. Both releases share Stallones’ affinity for naming albums as action verbs or as a way of describing a certain mode of operation; in this way, both Platoon and On Patrol share an obvious connection. And while Platoon suggests a group action (i.e., making music as a band), On Patrol signals a pursuit, an excuse to wander off in one’s own direction in search of something.

In true long-player fashion, Platoon eschews shorter tracks or singles for a true album feel: five tracks over the course of 40 minutes, making for a perfectly paced psych rock experience. “Dark Cicadas” is the record’s first track and wouldn’t be out of place sandwiched between Black Sabbath and Deep Purple on classic rock radio. It sounds legitimately plucked from an era that rockists have flaunted as the pinnacle of rock music. “Planar/Sonar” and “On The Dime” are two extended jams, the guitars of Stallones and William Giacchi communing atop an unfussy rhythm section. Organ and conga on these tracks add a much needed step away from the basic guitar-bass-drum setup.

The major (and only) perk of picking up the CD version of Platoon is that it includes two “bonus” tracks from a previously released 7-inch. CDs aren’t very rock ’n’ roll, but both added tracks certainly take this one “to eleven.” “Showstopper” is capable of getting any rock jock’s jaded blood flowing. Awash in guitar wah and with a thick, resiny groove, it fits somewhere between Hendrix and T. Rex. On “Cypress,” the entire band takes it for a walk with an infectious mid-tempo lockstep, Stallones making random utterances of approval like “alright” or “uh huh.” You can almost see the guitar faces.

If “rock” is dead, it’s only because of the rockist tendency to value music made by dead people from a now long-gone era. But there are tons of dudes out there who would love Magic Lantern if only it were slipped into their drive-time classic rock radio. Platoon is an album bristling with the true spirit of rock ’n’ roll, succeeding not because it tries to reinvent or resurrect rock music, but simply because it is rock, smartly crafted and well played by a group of guys unconcerned with the antiquated notions of rock stardom.

Links: Magic Lantern - Not Not Fun

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