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Pop Levi - The Return To Form Black Magick Party

Pop Levi, The Return To Form Black Magick Party

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

POP Levi is, by his own label’s admission, “one strange cat”.

Born in London, with musical roots in Liverpool, a stint playing with Ladytron and home in LA, Pop Levi likes to describe what’s good about his music as “astral”.

His debut album, the oddly-named The Return To Form Black Magick Party, is worthy of the term. It’s as though T-Rex had never gone away – although listen carefully and there’s also nods to everyone from Jack White, Prince and Hendrix as well as Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Captain Beefheart.

Rather than being a pastiche of those artists, or even an homage, The Return To Form… revels in its own playful exuberance and frequently delivers some musical highs that mark another major hit for the Counter Records label (aka Ninja Tunes).

Anyone that’s been paying attention will already know what to expect. Opening track and current single Sugar Assault Me Now is a fast and funky shot in the arm to the indie-disco scene that’s guaranteed to get fans bopping across the dancefloor with its glam-rock retro energy.

Opening up with rolling drums and handclaps that really get your toes a tapping, it then kicks into high gear with a filthy fuzz-bass riff that’s joined by some hopelessly upbeat Blueberry Hill rhythmed guitar. That’s not even mentioning the yelping and falsettoise vocals that recall the swagger and verve of Bolan in his prime.

It’s followed by the dirty, bluesy romp that’s Blue Honey, a fantastic hybrid of Hendrix and Bolan that drops some truly electrifying classic guitar riffs behind a raw, ragged set of vocals.

(A Style Called) Crying Chic then sets up the possibility of a really classic album by changing tack once again to provide listeners with an affectionate tribute to the sun-drenched sounds of 60s west Coast America circa The Mamas & The Papas and, yes, T-Rex. It’s a chilled out album highlight that puts you into a fantastically laidback groove.

Thereafter, the album threatens to veer off course slightly, drifting a little too self-consciously towards the “astral” that Pop Levi craves.

Pick-Me-Up Uppercut is a fun, funky, hand-clap laden dancefloor filler that flirts with burnout, and Dollar Bill Rock is just plain nuts (totally madcap).

Fortunately, Skip Ghetto slows things down with a nicely chilled psychedelic vibe that puts a nice acoustic guitar to the fore, and then there’s Flirting, another Mamas & The Papas romp that will probably emerge as the best Valentine’s track you’re never likely to hear on the radio.

It’s an absolute heart-melter and I wouldn’t mind betting it’ll find its way onto a TV advertising campaign shortly…

Mournin’ Light is a monster of rock riffage that probably arrives a little too soon after the blissful Flirting, while See My Lord drifts somewhat frustratingly towards avant garde jazz and finds the album at its most experimental and annoying.

But just when you’re beginning to think that Pop Levi had lost his way, he ends things on a positive note with the double whammy of Hades’ Lady, another bluesy footstomper that would probably leave latter-day Black Rebel Motorcycle Club green with envy (difficult to do…), and the aching ‘ballad’ From The Day That You Were Born, a graceful lullaby to Pop Levi’s as-yet unborn daughter that builds to a beautiful string-filled finale.

In short then, Pop Levi has crafted an absolute corker of a debut LP – one that’s occasionally too out there on its “astral” plain but which is mostly mesmerising.

Download picks: Sugar Assault Me Now, Blue Honey, (A Style Called) Crying Chic, Skip Ghetto, Flirting, From The Day That You Were Born

Track listing:

  1. Sugar Assault Me Now
  2. Blue Honey
  3. (A Style Called) Crying Chic
  4. Pick-Me-Up Uppercut
  5. Skip Ghetto
  6. Dollar Bill Rock
  7. Flirting
  8. Mournin’ Light
  9. See My Lord
  10. Hades’ Lady
  11. From The Day That You Were Born