Ex-Happy Hate Me Not Paul Berwick's pop light still shines
Step Into The Light – Paul Berwick’s Magnetic Quartet (self released)
At the risk of damning with faint praise, Paul Berwick made an indelible mark with the shoulda-been-huge Happy Hate Me Nots in the 1980s and ‘90s and he and his new band, The Magnetic Quartet, have much to live up to. This four-track EP “Step Into The Light” is a good start.
Sydney’s HHMNs developed from punk-pop to bona fide power-pop contenders over their first existence but never quite broke out into the mainstream. Another run in the 2000s after the sad loss of bassist Christian Houllemare tried but never scaled the same heights.
Berwick is a talented songwriter with a sharp ear for a melody and has assembled a superb band of old hands in Matt Galvin (guitar), Jim Dickson (bass) and Nick Kennedy (drums). Berwick fills out their sound on acoustic guitar. COVID has limited their live appearances to a handful of well-received gigs, so the question was would their recordings do them justice?
The title track is a self-assured slice of Big Star-style pop, powered by Galvin’s resonating guitar and a soaring Berwick vocal. A big chorus sets it up early. The song’s breezy composure slips off with a mid-stream psychedelic passage before those uplifting, bristling guitars take us out. It’s the best thing here by a long way.
“We forget our past so easily,” is Berwick’s opening lyric on “Our Time Is Short”, a measured pop song reflecting on mortality. The acoustic guitar imparts urgency before a wall of Galvin sound bounces off Kennedy’s fills to kick things up a notch.
“You Can Rely On Me” isn’t as strong, but Kennedy and Dickson give a big swinging bottom end to the closer “Don’t Stop”. Berwick is in fine voice again but The Galvinator’s filigree licks and an excoriating double-tracked outro are the secret weapons.
The production at Damien Gerard in Gosford from Andrew Beck and Russ T Rokk is terrific and gives full to every layer, and the band went the whole hog with mastering by William Bowden that puts the aural icing on the cake. It's available digitally or on CD. Grab your own copy here.