Personnel: Frank DiVanna (percussion).
Recording information: Fireside Sound; Studio 606.
Photographers: Liv Niles; Chris Grismer.
Arranger: Gateway Drugs.
A Los Angeles-based band comprising three siblings (all children of the Knack's Prescott Niles) and another non-family musician, Gateway Drugs released their debut full-length, Magick Spells, after a myriad of online tracks and demos. Clearly a well-manicured and neatly organized act, the band delivers dark, heavy rock that borders on noisy and psychedelic but always stops short of losing control, kept in bounds by high-gloss production and carefully crafted songwriting. Tunes like "Mommy" aim for the feedback pop of Sonic Youth or the drug-addled girl group revisionism of Jesus and Mary Chain, but land more in the somewhat cleaner territory of acts like the Raveonettes, complete with spare percussion buried beneath layers of exploding drums and walls of guitar. Some standout tracks like "Fridays Are for Suckers" tap into Gateway Drugs' knack for fuzzy melodic pop, while songs like "Head" and "Faith Healer" are modeled more after the strung-out psychedelic blues of bands like Brian Jonestown Massacre. The album wanders through a few different parts of the band's identity without feeling too scattered, touching on cloudy shoegaze with "Cavity Creeps" and even tinges of doo wop meshed with lonesome Americana on "'Til You Come Home." There's a baseline of ragged energy to all the songs, the production always clear but never sterile or draining the songs of their core elements. Magick Spells is a strong debut, with powerful and wicked tunes broken up by friendlier fare, but keeping a strange, sinister thread going throughout. ~ Fred Thomas