It’s hard to believe how long punk has been a musical idiom. For the sake of argument (because it’s hard to get many people to agree on when punk rock became recognized as a musical form), let’s say it started in 1969; that’s when MC5 released Kick Out The Jams. That’s a time period of forty-six years in length and, in that forty-six years, punk has been pronounced dead more times than anyone can be comfortable counting (the first time was in 1977 – BEFORE the Sex Pistols released Nevermind The Bollocks and shortly after The Ramones released their debut album), and it has enjoyed a multitude of rebirths, reformations and reconstitutions with the help of new bands as well as new fans.
The catch (and there’s always a catch – isn’t there?) is that nothing has ever really been re-started from ground level in all of that time; the pre-existing foundation from the last “revolution” is always the one upon which everything gets erected, so nothing ever really starts fresh – it has just had a new coat of paint slapped on it so it looks new for a new audience. That ongoing reconstruction continues in 2015 but, on Magick Spells, Gateway Drugs actually starts from the beginning – not at a later point from which they shoot off – with all the doors which may have closed over the last forty-five years (due to other choices made) re-opened for new investigation.
Listeners who have called themselves fans of punk rock for a while will likely recognize and be excited by the distinct difference manifest in Magick Spells from the moment “Anu” opens the album. Nothing about “Anu” is rushed; there is no running out of the gate as there has been when other punk bands think they’ve started something new, just a fatigued and methodically strummed E chord to open. Listeners may get the impression that punk might just be done running by that start, but the way the song continues removes all doubt; there is no build in tempo beyond an arrogant stomp, but the song does expand with the help of a multi-part vocal performance from Gabe, Noa and Liv Niles (who, yes, are the children of Knack bassist Prescott Niles – but that’s irrelevant to everyone but historians) and an intoxicating strut which gets listeners hooked first, then lets them totally zone out.
After “Anu” gets listeners locked in and zoned out, THAT’S when Gateway Drugs gets to work and really shows listeners how punk can (and/or should, depending on your outlook) work. “Mommy” ambles in with a fuzzy, noisy, Stooge-y air which captures those imaginations left un-won by “Anu” before “Friday’s Are For Suckers,” “Head” (which has a bassline designed for bedroom grinding and is headed up by an acoustic guitar which calls both The Stooges and Royal Trux to mind at the same time) and “Faith Healer” dig deeper into a glimey and grungy but sexy step before “Til You Come Home” eases out a dew-eyed ballad just for a twist and contrast. As all of that comes together, plenty of punks who were weened on the SoCal school of playing which produced such bands as Black Flag, Bad Religion, Green Day and eventually Flatliners and Menzingers will scoff and claim that nothing about Gateway Drugs even sort of resembles punk rock as they know it, but those who came up listening to MC5, The Stooges, The New York Dolls and The Troggs know better; this is the ESSENCE of punk rock born anew – and it feels as good, exciting and redeeming as anyone might expect a second coming to feel.
After those won by Magick Spells make their way through the full length of the album, the first thing they’ll want to know is what’s next and when it might be coming.The truth is, no one could possibly know; the band could follow any number of trails as they evolve (they could continue on the path they’re on or they could become a metal band or a stoner rock band – anything’s possible), or they could blaze their own path and steer clear of their peers. Whatever they do, Gateway Drugs may find they have a long line of those who got hooked by Magick Spells waiting to find out what’s next when they return.
Gateway Drugs – Magick Spells – “Friday’s Are For Suckers” – [mp3] www.groundcontrolmag.com/music/Gateway_Drugs-Fridays_Are_For_Suckers.mp3