Pop Levi - The Return to Form Black Magick Party
Pop Levi - it's a funny old name isn't it? Then again, Pop Levi's music is a rather strange melting pot which he hopes will transcend said pot and become, in his own words, 'astral'. The album's title hints at what you can expect, enthralling you like only the most seductive spell can. Hailing from London but based in L.A., with roots in Liverpool no less, the former Ladytron bassist has drawn on a wide array of influences. The question is, has he succeeded in creating black magick that remains original enough to fulfil his hefty ambitions?
I won't rehash all the praise I heaped upon lead single Sugar Assault Me Now, for fear of sounding like a scary fanboy; suffice to say, it's a bloody fantastic song! Eclecticism is the name of the game here though, despite Levi's unique charisma and falsetto vocals providing a running thread through all eleven tracks. The tempo is mainly up, up and away although there are a couple of moments to take stock and breathe. The sweet harmonies of Skip Ghetto and Flirting are lovely and mellow, and the experimental See My Lord is evidence that this guy can do stripped back. Meanwhile, the out-and-out party-starters still manage to vary in style. Dollar Bill Rock is a funky skank that wears its big pop melodies (a la Beach Boys) on its flamboyant sleeve, while Pick-Me-Up Uppercut is a poptastic jitterbug and quite possibly the most danceable and joyous song since The Bees' Chicken Payback. The big ol' crunching guitars that weave in and out of all the tracks are the driving force behind Mournin' Light but the glam groove of Blue Honey is probably the album's highlight. Its chugging guitars and driving beat lend it the feel of a lost T-Rex song, although Levi sounds like he's channelling Jack White along with Bolan.
In fact, this demonstrates a balancing act that Levi handles admirably from start to finish. He is a product of his influences, Hades Lady sounding like Mellow Gold-era Beck whilst the piano-led ballad From the Day That You Were Born wouldn't exist if it were not for John Lennon. However, despite forming a tapestry of influences old and new, Pop Levi is his own man. Also, despite the retro qualities to some of the tracks - for instance, it's hard not to visualize acid-frazzled hippies styling their hair with flowers when you listen to (A Style Called) Crying Chic - he remains very much modern. It's a mishmash that works astonishingly well (and perhaps, given all the various references, shouldn't), forming a cohesive whole that won't fail to get under your skin and make it dance. Mika who?