If ever there was an album overdue for a re-issue it’s ‘Born To Deal In Magic: 1952-1976’ (BTDIM), the debut from Shooting Guns, originally released in 2011, is it. In fact Captcha Records/ Cardinal Fuzz are doing just that in a fantastic double whammy for fans of the band with this and a new album made up of a series of previously unreleased jams, ‘Spectral Laundromat’, reviewed separately here. Whereas ‘Spectral Laundromat’ shows a band that is able to play long involving, intense and improvised music, BTDIM is much sharper, cleaner and direct; and in this sense the two albums complement each other perfectly.
Here I’m going to try to review the album as if hearing it for the first time, and without reference to the band’s later stuff. It’s often easy to forget, especially with debut albums, what sort of impact they might have had when the came out, and I imagine that in this case it was pretty strong. For instance ‘Harmonic Steppenwolf’ gets right into the groove with that amazing and seemingly endless repetitive riff that grabs you right from the outset and doesn’t let go until it drops you in a wibbling mess at the end. If ‘Harmonic Steppenwolf’ doesn’t seize your attention and lock you in, then you ain’t gonna like the rest.
Next up is ‘Public Taser’ which is what might have happened if Black Sabbath and Neu had been involved in a road crash and decided to jam on the verge while waiting to be rescued. Huge rffage with a raw motorik element to it, this track is typical of Shooting Guns’ ability to develop heavy and relentless tracks, and do so in such a short space of time… you get the same sort of feeling after a minute that some other bands take ten minutes to achieve.
‘Dope Strings’ continues along a similar sort of vain with a luscious mix of early 70s Kraut… and Heavy rock. A slower number, this is no less heavy and dogged, and allows you a respite from the previous two tracks, a chance to zone out and take stock before seriously kicking off at about the halfway mark. The band then really take it home to the end with some great guitar work and electronic noises whirling around in the background giving the track and misty element. There’s certainly dope being smoked here.
After that ‘The Last Great Depression’ jolts you out of your weed-induced reverie with a really sharp fuzzed up guitar piercing through the gloom like a moment of clarity. It’s not long, though, until we are plunged into the depressive doom of the title with some really heavy strumming that is anything but optimistic: ‘melancholic’ and ‘gloomy’ are two words that come to mind here.
Opening side two is ‘Black Hand’, which initially does little to dispel the send of despair, but at around two minutes in something quite wonderful happens as the darkness somehow beings to lift with a quite euphoric change up that puts the whole album on a different plane. This is my favourite track on the album and one that is for me quite special.
Follow that Shooting Guns…no problem as the band appear out of the darkness. Gone are the doom laden guitars, replaced by something more psychedelic and fuzzy. The motorik beat is back and there is a real feeling of excitement as the band break out into something altogether more expansive. There is space in this track where before there was oppression..the cloud has been lifted.
After that things really get moving with ‘Stay Away Forever’. Goodbye weed and hello speed as Shooting Guns cast off the shackles and really go for it. This is a massive track that leaves you breathless with its agility and pace…it’s a track that you just want to jump around the room before embedding your air guitar firmly into your speakers…watch those sparks fly.
Exhausted and freaked the album ends with ‘Cheater’s Justice’. If I was to call this track ‘solid’ you might get the wrong impression. What I mean is that it has a certain heft to it which somehow confirms the journey that you have just been on. BTDIM does take you on a journey, into the darkness and then out into the light again. It’s an album that its great to hear again and remind ourselves that Shooting Guns were an amazing band from the get go.
The heavyweight vinyl for ‘Born To Deal In Magic: 1952-1976’ will be on occult oxblood with black swirl, housed in a gorgeous 350g sleeve.
You can find my other writing for Backseat Mafia here,