Under Review

Pop Levi

The Return to Form Black Magick Party


Review By John Park

I have no idea what the title means, but the album is just as far-out as the title sounds.  Pop Levi seems to specialize in pasting zany, weird sounds onto rock songs. Yes, “pasted” is an appropriate phrase. I am a proponent of wacky or psychedelic sound bites as long as they’re used in a manner that complements and is appropriate to the underlying music. The feelings I get as I repeatedly listen to The Return to Form Black Magick Party range from appreciation for its potential, to muted interest, to embarrassed cringing.

The most striking aspect of the album’s sound is the prominent studio trickery. For example, most of the vocals are overdubbed. The dubbing doesn’t hurt, as the album would’ve sounded too acoustic otherwise. The weird noises, however, are another story. The bulk of them are tacked on the beginning or end of a track, instead of being integrated with the song’s flow (as in Pet Sounds from The Beach Boys).

This is not to say that every single millisecond has studio tricks up its sleeve. Among others, “Blue Honey,” “Hades’ Lady,” and the lovely “From the Day that You Were Born,” show Levi’s raw, more basic approach to rock. The pick of the lot is probably “[A Style Called] Crying Chic”. At the same time, it’s a shame because I can envision the potential for “Crying Chic” to be even better—it has an acoustic guitar hook that kills—if only Levi didn’t sing the song to death. Alas, that’s another prominent, detrimental aspect to Levi’s record: recycling the lyrics or vocal melody. Some of the words are thoroughly embarrassing, the worst being “Pick-Me-Up Uppercut,” with grunts, endless repetition of the title, and various bewildering one-liners (“The alligator! The alligator! . . . I’ll see you later! I’ll see you later!”) that belong in someone’s toilet (not mine). The end result is an album with loads of great ideas sans the backbone of songwriting savvy.