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CD: Miracle Legion - Portrait of a Damaged Family | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Miracle Legion - Portrait of a Damaged Family

CD: Miracle Legion - Portrait of a Damaged Family

The reformed US rock band finds rich form with 'lost' album

"Next up on Cash in the Attic, we visit Dorian Gray"

The post-Christmas headlines could barely contain themselves: HMV sells one turntable per minute! UK vinyl sales set to hit two million in 2016! Tesco stocking records! Vinyl was officially back.

And now Record Store Day 2016 is upon us and likely to be the biggest one since its 2007 inception. There has been much discussion about the merits of RSD, on which shops around the country will be stocking limited releases to sate the public’s newfound appetite. For some shops, it’s a boost as increased awareness, footfall and income can see them through fallow times. Buying in swathes of stock is a gamble however, and many retailers are less sure months later as they sit, surrounded by non-returnable, skittle-coloured represses that no one wants, long after the big-ticket items have been bought and hawked on eBay. Is weighing down shops with unsellable tripe really the best way to help? One thing a sinking ship doesn’t need is unnecessary ballast.

It’s an album that deserves to be heard above the bluster

Amid the dross – and there really is a huge amount this year – are, of course some genuinely interesting artefacts, and Miracle Legion’s Portrait of a Damaged Family is one of those. Technically a reissue, the 1996 release of the last album by the US college rock outfit was so soft it barely registered. That’s a real shame and one that is being addressed with a proper release to tie in, not just with Record Store Day, but also with the band’s reunion and forthcoming live dates. Not so much a reissue, more a rebirth.

Set within the jaunty guitar jangle of opener “You’re My Blessing” is tender and beautiful sentiment, relayed with Mark Mulcahy’s trademark literacy: “Aren't you overdue for a compliment?/And can I say that/You're heaven sent?/These are the words I heard in my head/But I've never said.” Its light however, is immediately shadowed by “Screamin’” which documents a much darker side of love: dizzy and shipwrecked by emotion. They’re beautifully counterpointed pieces and complemented by the album’s closer “Gone to Bed at 21”, a touching story of ill-fated devotion told from the perspective of a young man’s ghost.

While comparisons to contemporary bands of the time (notably R.E.M.) are valid, they don’t present the whole story. There’s huge diversity on offer here, from the folky, subtle story song “Homer” to the much heavier, angular tones of “Accidentally on Purpose” which sounds simultaneously of its time and timeless. It still fizzes with energy after two decades lying dormant as does “Good for Her”, a bluesy rattle soon giving way to a thrilling, fairground ride of a tune, which barely lets up for a second.

Amid the tidal wave of releases today, much of value will be lost. That’s a fate Portrait of a Damaged Family has suffered before, and one I hope it avoids now. There's a full digital release on April 18, also through Mulcahy's Mezzotint label, which should help – it’s an album that deserves to be heard above the bluster.



Technically a reissue, the 1996 release of the last album by the US college rock outfit was so soft it barely registered


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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