If you are among the fans who listened to their previous records, The Volodor Dance, and For Sada Jane, this album is a departure. Imagine Lee Ranaldo's surprise when he came to record (produce) this one and discovered that the Markers had actual fully realized songs. While For Sada Jane was comprised of four longer, improvisation, or at least improv-conceived, and experimental tracks, Boss comes in at nine tracks. Though it is not for connoisseurs of completely tonal music, there is more structure and melodic content, yet the whole also contains brilliant sections of their trademark experimental sounds and crunchy, seemingly unrelated (but actually essential!) beneath the surface motifs and other pleasurable tumults.
Some highlights include opening track Axis Mundi and the dangerously addictive fifth track, Taste. One of the revelations of this album is Elisa Ambrogio's vocals on those two songs in particular. It is the sound of a modern Grace Slick or a boozy Hope Sandoval. And on Last of the Lemach Line, she could be a long lost, disturbed, kid-cousin of Jim Morrison doing her take on The End. It is one delicious dirge and clocking in at nine minutes is not too long, and satisfying to, well, the end.
With their alternately tuned guitars and free-wheeling, cacophonous, stream-of-consciousness jams it is easy to see the appeal of this band to Thurston Moore whose Ecstatic Peace records released this record, their second with that label. Whether this is their fourth full-length release or their fiftieth (or however many) depends whether you count their prolific production of CD-Rs which they regularly make and give to fans and their shows.
This album contains mid-tempo, off-kilter, slow-grooving rockers, piano ballads (with a piano that sounds like it was chosen and tuned by Tom Waits, definitely not an immaculately tuned Steinway grand, and that's a very good thing. It fits perfectly), and more straight ahead garage rockers. That said, nothing this band does is straight ahead or straight forward. Refreshingly, for fans of new, experimental rock everywhere, with the Magik Markers the shortest distance between two points is never a straight line.
The Magik Markers formed in Hartford, CT, in 2001, featuring guitarist/vocalist Elisa Ambrogio, drummer Pete Nolan, and bassist Leah Quimby. Inspired by no wave and hardcore, the trio developed a free-rocking sound that made the most of their stream-of-consciousness approach. For this album the lineup is pared down to Ambrogio and Nolan, although they have added two players for their current tour.
This album is one that makes you hopeful for the future of rock. It is demented and disturbing and also beautiful and unpredictable. The whole of Boss evokes a dark, smoky, dirty, volatile, yet somehow charming and captivating atmosphere that will make you wish you were there.
Bonus: Fun listening party activity? Try and guess (by listening, no sneaking a look at the liner notes) on which track(s) Lee added guitar and glockenspiel parts.