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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Counting on Magic Numbers

The English group has charm that may add up to longevity.

November 03, 2005|Steve Hochman | Special to The Times

ENGLISH band Starsailor touched down a few years ago at the Troubadour amid much buzz for a sound owing a lot to Tim Buckley and Gram Parsons. Then Dublin-based the Thrills came to the same West Hollywood club with even more hype for its mix of the Beach Boys and Parsons' Flying Burrito Brothers. On Tuesday, England's the Magic Numbers became the latest California-inspired British Isles export to make its Los Angeles debut at the club, the birthplace of the '60s and '70s California-identified sounds.

The two pairs of siblings (Trinidad-born singer-guitarist Romeo Stodart and his bass-playing sister, Michele; drummer Sean Gannon and singing sister Angela) came in on a wave of UK press rhapsody and a Mercury Music Prize nomination for its debut, "The Magic Numbers."

They bore an appealing earthiness, adding dimension to the album's reference points that include the Mamas & the Papas, soft-rock group Bread and the Buckingham-Nicks era Fleetwood Mac.

Tuesday's opening song, "The Mule," is the album's highlight, twisting lyrics and shifting musical currents evocatively tracing the contours of love's circuitous turns. It showcased the night's revelation in Michele Stodart's bass, subdued on the album but the driving force on stage.

Still, there was a sense of missed opportunities, especially in vocal arrangements that gave Romeo Stodart nearly all the leads (think a reedier version of Coldplay's Chris Martin). Both women have strong, attractive voices, yet the arrangements lacked the harmonic weavings of their musical models.

There also was a tendency toward softness and sentimentality. But there was plenty of charm and original ideas at work to give the benefit of the doubt that the Magic Numbers can build on the promise, where Starsailor and the Thrills have thus far failed.

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