“Isn’t that what we’ve all been asking in our own lives…Where’s my elephant?”
The ridiculousness of this classic Simpsons joke is apparent. Absolutely no one is asking `where is my elephant?’ The pachyderm that Bart is offered by the DJ’s at KBBL is supposed to be the `gag gift’ that no one in his or her right mind would take over a cash prize. Ever the stubborn adolescent, Bart refuses to give in, demanding he be given an African Bull Elephant. And so, one has to ask himself, do I really want an Elefant? In this case the misspelling represents the New York new romantic band started and fronted by Diego Garcia, the itinerant son of Argentineans with his television channel permanently affixed to VH-1’s I Love the 80’s. If you have been asking the world to provide a combination of the almost uncomfortably earnest aspects of Dashboard Confessional with the forgettable one-hit wonders of the Reagan era, then maybe you have been asking the above question. If not, then The Black Magic Show is one you’ll want to avoid.
Garcia, just as in his previous Elefant releases, unleashes his inner Flock of Seagulls on The Black Magic Show. Not only that, he also gets in touch with his Andrew Lloyd Webber. The opening title track tries to introduce the album as a collection of `freaks,’ like a new wave Sgt. Pepper’s. What ensues can be called entertaining, to a point, but ultimately suffers under the weight of overarching swagger, unoriginality and production so glossy, you might slip out of your chair just listening to it. Part of the blame can be laid on producer Don Gilmore, the man behind works by Avril Lavigne, Linkin Park, Train, Dashboard Confessional and the last Duran Duran album (which was that loud thud you heard at about this time last year). It’s as if Gilmore and Elefant wanted to cash in on all the filthy lucre that the Killers were raking in and studied it like the Zapruder film.
“Lolita,” which is about the title character in the infamous Nabokov book seems more like the confessions of an Internet predator than the story of a nymphet seductress. Best to leave all references to that book to the Police. “The Clown” is a song that seems to mix bouncy circus keyboards with charging Weezer guitars to the point that I was waiting to hear the chorus from “Only in Dreams.” One thing I cannot get my head around is Garcia’s affected vocals. Not only does it seem like he’s auditioning for a Broadway version of American Idol, which he would lose on account of not having any range, it seems as if he wants to be a new romantic version of Michael Crawford. Picture the lead singer of Wang Chung covering “Memory” or “All I Ask of You” and you’ll be close to what I’m talking about. I also can’t figure out why he’s putting on such a pronounced British accent. In “Sirens,” Garcia sings the rhymes, “ahftah” for after and “disahstah” for disaster. I kept looking for a reference to the fact that his parents were indeed British and merely living in Argentina, but alas, I found none. I know he couldn’t have picked it up in Detroit or Tampa, two of Garcia’s known residences. The accent was a `distrahctah.’
The Black Magic Show ends up to be a case of all surface and no substance, which I suppose is just how it was twenty or so odd years ago, making the album a somewhat accurate reflection of the `me’ decade. But with the glut of bands in the retro market right now, is this what we really need? Where’s my Elefant? Well, it’s still stuck in the ever increasingly sized tar pit that is ’80s nostalgia. When it comes right down to it, in a musical world filled with Killers, the Bravery, VHS or Beta, Interpol, etc., there’s just not near enough room for an Elefant.