Some of the greatest girl-bands ever to hit the terrestrial airwaves came out of the nineties. The ladies of this golden age of Alternative Rock had a certain style that most of the kids that are still trying to keep this type of music alive today seem to lack. It could be because I’m getting older, but I am of the firm opinion that very little coming out of that category these days can even hold a candle to the likes of Veruca Salt, Letters to Cleo, and the subject of this review: Luscious Jackson.
Sadly, not one of the aforementioned bands made it out of the decade that made them. Veruca Salt moved along, but the only remaining member of the original band was lead singer Louise Post. Letters to Cleo and Luscious Jackson just disappeared entirely. But, like so many of the great acts of the ’90s, Luscious Jackson has returned after almost thirteen years with a new effort, in hopes that it will bring them back at least to relevant status again. While I doubt that “Magic Hour” will win them any Grammys or help them slide their way onto the Billboard charts (whatever those amount to these days), it is a decent piece of work that finds the band still deep in their signature groove with a few clever tumbles that land outside of the box.
The record’s first track You and Me, offers a fast, foot-tapping beat and layered composition that lets the listener know right off the bat that this is a Luscious album. It hits a lot like Nervous Breakthrough, the first track on “Electric Honey”, in its pacing. This sets the stage for the remainder of the album, which plays out in much the same way as those which came before it, only this time giving off the distinct vibe that this is the truly joyous reunion that these ladies are touting.
#1 Bum brings a groovy baseline that is trademark Luscious Jackson. Distorted vocals and fluxing guitar mix well with a steady, thumping beat. The lyrics here, as with most of Luscious’ work, are not very deep or inspiring in any way, mostly paying homage to their muse’s ass (quite literally), but the fun feeling of the track more than makes up for it. This can pretty much be said for most of their work.
My personal favorite track is So Rock On. It starts with a steady synth underlay with the bass almost slipping in through a door left accidentally ajar. The tight, steady flow and changing rhythm seem to convey an underlying darkness that is not explicit in the lyrics. This track is followed by the opposite, fast-paced and upbeat composition that Luscious brings to the table with Love is Alive. Here, an almost Latin beat rises up around the listener as Jill Cunniff’s sweet vocals melt holes in his brain.
We Go Back launches with sounds of a live crowd before dissolving to soft guitar and eventually building to a harder chorus. It’s beat and flow are both very catchy, a lot like much of what you will find on their previous album, “Electric Honey”. Frequency follows with a static flicker that quickly dissolves and makes way for Jill’s soft, beautiful vocals over a mix of synth and distorted bass and guitar.
“Magic Hour” is a solid Luscious Jackson album that could easily be shelved between any of their previous releases. It carries their signature style of groovy, funky alternative rock music that you can dance to just as easily as relax with. The album length, however, is where I have to trim a few points off of my final grade. Clocking in at just over thirty minutes, “Magic Hour” is not a very long ride. I consistently found that, just when I was getting into a track it was coming to an end, and that was more than a bit of a letdown.
If “Magic Hour” is a true reunion for these extremely talented ladies and carries with it a renewed ambition to produce subsequent albums, then I’m all for it. But after almost fifteen years waiting for a new effort from a band that was with me throughout much of my teenage years I can honestly say that, unlike their previous work, this record doesn’t grab me in the same I want to smoke pot and listen to it on repeat all night kind of way. I wish them the best of luck, and will not hesitate to give them my money with future releases (that will hopefully have an average track length of more than three minutes), but when the idea to throw on some Luscious Jackson hits me at some point down the road, this will not be the first album that comes to mind.
“Magic Hour” — 6.5/10