It’s highly possible you won’t listen a more technically impressive album in 2008 than Magnetic Morning’s debut LP, A.M. The duo — Adam Franklin of Swervedriver and Sam Fogarino, the skin banger in Interpol — layered guitars on guitars, produced cavernous-sounding drums, used reverb like it was going out of style, and produced an album that can be described with a single word: huge.
It’s also highly possible you won’t listen to a duller album in 2008 than A.M. Determining what is the problem is difficult. Franklin’s vocals seem disconnected and detached from what is happening musically, but he’s always been that way, and Fogarino’s got experience with emotionally detached frontmen — his main squeeze, Paul Banks, turned emotional distance into an aesthetic pose. But combined with the budget shoegaze mixed with Bush-like alternative rock that fuels A.M., the album is a massive bomb.
Turgid opener “Spring Unseen” sets the rest of the album’s tempo: downtrodden dirges that seem ready-built for massive, distortion feedbacks a la My Bloody Valentine but never move beyond superficial crescendos. The album’s centerpiece is its lone highlight: “Motorway,” a direct translation of Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn,” is reserved until its pensiveness gives way to its huge chorus. But its road motifs make it more a lost Swervedriver track featuring the drummer from Interpol than a Magnetic Morning original.
It’s disappointing that a duo this good on paper could be responsible for an album as uninspired as A.M. Even the album’s better songs (the piano-led “And I Wonder” and the sauntering “The Wrong Turning”) are limp and tedious at best. You have to respect Fogarino and Franklin’s wish to remain vital with different projects, but A.M. offers us little to love.