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Strange Magic

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Album Review

The Charms open Strange Magic, their third album, with a flourish of reverberating guitars and clattering drum beats, storming straight into a classic rock strewn howl against the "American Way." But as fans of the quartet well know, the group is no classic rock act, but purveyors of some of the most incendiary garage music around. The band's chief charm is frontwoman Ellie Vee, whose wild farfisa organ gives the group its signature psyched out sound, while her vocals, reminiscent of Fay Fife, add a punk edge. On this set, she's augmented by two guest keyboardists, who add a second farfisa, a Hammond, and piano to further that authentic '60s styling.

And the band love all things '60s, from the girl groups and Phil Spector's Wall of Sound production that swoons around "Broken Heart," to the British Invasion pop of "So Romantic," arguably the most infectious number on the set. The barreling R&B that ignites "Cold War" dates from the previous decade, but was still rolling strong in the '60s, the glitter strewn "Star Rider" evokes the glammy '70s, but its '60s roots are still evident within, thanks to the guesting Bobby Emmett's fabulous piano work. And whether the band is rocking out, as it does on "The Wolf" and "Touch," or falling into the psychedelic haze of "Lost Child" and "LTD," the Charms' magic is indisputable. Their ability to warp styles to their will, lobbing incendiary guitar leads like Molotov cocktails into the most unexpected places, and sprinkling psychedelia into the corners of virtually every song, combined with a lethal rhythm section take this band far beyond the confines of most garage rock. Add powerful hooks, catchy choruses, and some of the strongest melodies around, and it's impossible to escape this group's spell.

Strange Magic, The Charms
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