Don’t back up the hippie bus just yet.
Secretly Canadian, 2012
To borrow and slightly modify the parlance of another well known musical community, what a short, strange trip it’s been for Luke Temple, and the rest of Here We Go Magic. In the relatively brief amount of time between the band’s self-titled debut in 2009 (Western Vinyl), 2010’s Pigeons (also Secretly Canadian) and now, A Different Ship, the band has worn a lot of different hats all while maintaining a peculiar hint of patchouli laden atmospherics.
Here We Go Magic began, more or less, as Temple’s New York bedroom project, but unlike so many of his DIY compatriots, he gazed to the horizon beyond the usual lo-fi restrictions that home-recorders often cling to. The band’s debut album was one of the weirder blog buzz outings of the last few years, mixing spacey pop bounce and world music rhythms and tribal beats alongside barren, chilly ambience. Temple et al followed that up a year later with the less heralded, but still thought provoking progism of Pigeons. A Different Ship maintains the band’s adventurous, musical ADHD tendencies, and while it would be a mistake to call it anything like a hard left turn, Here We Go Magic seem to be easing into a decidedly hippie-fried jam-happiness, which both suits them and raises cause for concern.
As far as cohesiveness over a whole album is concerned, A Different Ship is as much a statement of aural solidarity as the band has yet produced. The intro on “Make Up Your Mind”, a simple metronomic drum beat leading into an unashamedly Dead like guitar hiccup – lather, rinse, repeat – signals the band’s foray into drum-circle friendly jamming, with Temple’s requisite synth sheen and understated, bizzaro electro flourishes, which remind the listener we are not exactly blasting headlong into the world of VW buses, female underarm hair, or grilled cheese sandwiches being sold by a guys in tie-dye. Although, it’s not a total stretch to get there either.
Interestingly, Temple maintains his flare for catchy populism, something he’s had a knack for, dating all the way back to 2009’s “Fangela”. While there are not any tracks on A Different Ship with that song’s heady, upbeat, captivating air, the proggy guitar, bubbly bass, and airy, pseudo-spiritualist tone of the vocals on “I Believe in Action” come damn close, even if Temple’s lyrics (“Not moving does not mean you don’t move”) ring a little college-lit hollow. Ultimately, one’s enjoyment of A Different Ship may depend on how tolerant you are of this kind of proto jam band lite sound, and I have to admit, my mind is more open to it after listening to Here We Go Magic’s latest.