Mrs. Magician B-Sides (Thrill Me)
By their very nature, rarities and b-sides collections tend to be pretty spotty. They’re cast-offs—offal— the stuff that either didn’t fit or just plain wasn’t good enough to make it to an artist’s albums. That may be a gross oversimplification in certain cases, but that’s usually how this sort of thing works. There are exceptions, of course—Nirvana’s Incesticide has aged at least as well as the band’s studio albums, if not better—but, on a larger scale, rarities compilations are, to put it bluntly, musical leftovers.
That doesn’t mean that one band’s trash can’t be a listener’s treasure. Simply making the effort to actually release rare, rough or hard-to-find songs indi cates that an artist would think those extra tracks are worth a listener’s time. In the case of Mrs. Magician, whose new B-Sides compilation was released Sept. 3 on drummer Cory Stier’s Thrill Me Records, it’s a reappraisal worth taking.
Boasting 17 songs, B-Sides is a hefty amount of material packed into 40 minutes. That, inevitably, means some of the material is going to be slight, unfinished or even not terribly necessary. “Wai Ki Kill,” for instance, is a 30-second instrumental track that, while pretty, doesn’t really do much. And the snotty, sassy “Tabloids,” “I Hate Tour” and “Get Bent,” while still touting the band’s characteristic surf-pop melodies, don’t quite have the same appeal of anything on Mrs. Magician’s 2012 album, Strange Heaven.
Yet, despite a handful of inevitable rough or undercooked tracks, Mrs. Magician’s b-sides largely comprise the same golden hooks and melodies that can be found on their a-sides or album tracks. “All My Friends are Dying,” for instance, is a gorgeous jangle-pop gem with lots of reverb-heavy licks, while “Guys in Cooler Bands” has a triumphantly soaring chorus. There’s no song that hits with the same kind of impact as opener “Despicable Things,” however— its big, meaty riffs introduce the largely low-key pop record with a tune that thoroughly rocks.
By design, B-Sides isn’t perfect, but it’s surprisingly strong given that it’s a collection of odds and ends. In any case, having them all here sure beats tracking down all those 7-inches.