The Magnficents ‘The Magnificents’ (KFM, 2004)

The first time I saw the Magnificents live, in the small, sweaty Wee Red Bar at Edinburgh College of Art almost two decades ago, it was an initiation in both electronic music, and the power of discovering a group that felt like they were truly your own – or at least, shared only with the 50 or so fiercely devoted fellow travellers in the room.

Looking back on a quartet who never quite made it out of Edinburgh, the huge promise they showed is still easy to conjure in the mind. All four – Tommy Stuart, Drew McFadyen, Steven McGregor and drummer Casey Miller – studied at ECA a few years after the Beta Band (who they knew, and later supported on a tour of Europe), and were contemporaries of David Maclean (the younger brother of the Beta’s John) and his future Django Django bandmate Tommy Grace.
That thrillingly ramshackle show, and many which followed, suggested The Magnificents were only a step away from being remembered in such company. Surly, scowling, bomber-jacketed, their music rode on Stuart and McGregor’s bouncing, minimalist analogue synth lines, which gleefully made no secret of their adoration for Krautrock, and for Neu! in particular.

While the Blitz Kids-meets-Summer Of Love gaudiness of electroclash exploded in nightclubs around them, and the music press obsessed over bands with guitars from London and New York, The Magnificents were a spearhead in the great krautrock revival that never was. McFadyen’s spiky guitars betrayed his fascination with early Simple Minds, while Stuart’s bellowing, angery performances – which often resulted in equipment damage – lent an air of Mary Chain unpredictability.

Despite backing from Mogwai, who they also supported, the group never made the breakthrough. Perhaps it’s because the recordings couldn’t capture the lightning spirit of their live shows in a bottle. That said, their self-titled debut album, from the raw chemical energy of the signature ‘Kids Now!’ to the surging, Germanic ‘Tannoy’ and the epic John Carpenter tribute ‘This Is The Magnificents’, is a DIY electropop beauty.

The Magnificents disbanded in 2007 after their second album ‘Year Of Explorers’, although their Krautrock fascination continues through McFadyen’s work as the fictional GDR Olympics composer, Kosmicher Laufer.

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