Magnetic Man ‘Magnetic Man’ – Review

27 Oct

So apparently Magnetic Man are leading Dub-step’s assault on the charts, they are banging on the doors of the mainstream demanding to be let in. Columbia are releasing this album which in itself is a pretty massive deal, if you had told me a few years that the hottest underground genre of the noughties would be represented on the biggest label in the world I would have laughed. But then this debut album doesn’t really sound like the dub-step that so excited me and others back then.

The thing that originally interested me about the genre was that it sounded like the 21st century. If you think back to early releases by Burial, Benga or Skream the sounds being produced were dark, futuristic, alienated, paranoid and very intense. Benga and Skream are two-thirds of Magnetic Man but this is to dubstep what stadium rock is to punk, and it doesn’t completely work. There is the odd moment of genius, such as the two singles ‘Perfect Stranger’ and especially I Need Air’, but a lot of this material fails to hit the mark.

As an album ‘Magnetic Man’ flows uneasily, jumping from some obscure, jittery beat to a bona-fide pop song to a fast and furious dance number. It opens with an orchestral, oriental instrumental and 13 tracks (and over an hour) later it closes with the John Legend featuring ‘Getting Nowhere.’ In between there seems to have been uncertainty over whether to go down the more accessible path or whether to stick to their dubstep roots and rather than deciding on one they seem to jump back and forth like a nervous child. It keeps you entertained but it isn’t the cohesive success they probably were hoping for.

As for what works, there are a few songs that stand out. As I have said ‘Perfect Stranger’ and ‘I Need Air’ are two of the best singles released all year, and the other Katy B song ‘Crossover’ is nearly as good. Of the instrumentals ‘Mad’ is the my favourite although ‘Ping Pong’ would be better if it didn’t go on for so long. In fact that is true of the album as a whole, the ideas are stretched out to infinity and honestly there probably isn’t enough diversity to justify the great length. A lot of these songs sound quite similar and too often they fail to progress in a positive way. ‘Anthemic’ is a good example, it feels like it should build and take you on a journey but it never sets off.

Ambition is a wonderful thing and Magnetic Man have it in spades – this is a more interesting and important album than most you will hear this year but success comes at a cost and I can’t help feeling that in jumping towards the mainstream dub-step has lost something quite essential. Most underground genres have to poke their head into the daylight one day and Dubstep has been trying for a long time, ‘Magnetic Man’ contains the singles that will give it the final push but the genre has better albums out there and there will be better albums to come. Still it’s worth buying for ‘I Need Air’ alone.



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