1999 brought the third record from Cast, and with it the band seemed to have settled into a nice zone musically. To me Magic Hour shows Cast at a stage seemingly comfortable in what they do well with solid British Pop and Rock sensibilities all the while John Power and Co. explore the edges a bit with changes in tempo, structure, fuller melodies, and adding a few bloops and bleeps along the way. All of this makes this album a real charmer lost in the post-britpop coked up hangover phase.
Sure, Magic Hour contains another massively huge song to start an album for Cast in “Beat Mama”, and chances are you’ve heard praises sung up and down for this track. If you don’t know the track go listen to it now, and if you do,well, we’ll just skip ahead. With that out of the way I’d like to give the overall feel here first. Personally I lasted a good 8-9 tracks before I got to a moment I didn’t like and that says something to me as a fan on a band’s third album. As we already know the album starts off strong and this leads into the next tracks with a really memorable guitar intro on “Compared To You”, and it’s raise your hands in the air melodic chorus. “Dreamer”, another track, is a foot-stompin treck through swamp-rock with shades of the All Changes’ track “History” with it’s guitar parts in the breakdown. While “Company Man” might not win over new fans it is a classic Cast song with an upbeat tempo and a sweeping, anthemic chorus.
One thread tying all those songs together, and this is my guitarphille speaking here, is this album has really well recorded guitar tone. Maybe the band will say otherwise but at least to this listeners ear John, Peter and Liam seemed to have found what Oasis wanted in “Be Here Now” with their wall of sound by not being 100% soley derived from an Ibanez tube screamer pedal. Sure there’s lots of distortion in there but it’s really crisp, clean, and most importantly tight. There’s excess to be sure, it is what that time of music did so well, but it was appropriate. Inbetween this assault on your senses you encounter these special moment songs such as “Higher” with it’s slow to fast tempo changes where Cast is playing subtly with it’s pop writing formula. An advancement in sound? Yes.
Overall the album adopts a larger guitar sound rather than the jangly guitar sound from the All Change album and that might turn someone off if they were hoping to get more of that. What you’ll find here, like Be Here Now, the huge wall of sound is there with larger than life melodies, an expansion of the previous albums song structures, but – and this is the break from BHN – with a whole lot tighter of a sound.