From the early `90s up until around 2005, there was at least one other thing you could count on in life beyond death and taxes, and that was John Reis kicking out fresh jams every couple years with one or more of his staple bands like Rocket from the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu or the Hot Snakes. After Rocket from the Crypt and the Hot Snakes both abruptly dissolved in 2005, many of Reis' faithful followers were left with an uncertain future, as only disconnected bits and pieces of the Reis rock & roll machine remained intact, like the mainly inactive Sultans and unsubstantiated rumors of a Speedo collective. In early 2008, the mounting gossip and leaking information finally culminated in the unveiling of Reis' new project, the Night Marchers, and suddenly all was right again in the world.
For all the Night Marchers' debut See You in Magic is (a John Reis project, a Swami release, an obscure reference to non-Western folklore -- thanks, Wikipedia) it would be hard to charge bias in foretelling greatness. After all, who in a reasonably stable mental state would disagree that the mere mention of a RFTC or Hot Snakes-related project holds promise? Thankfully, See You in Magic holds up, overcoming the formidable challenge of providing listeners with something original enough to rouse a substantial level of buzz-induced interest, while paying homage to the motley heap of predecessors who paved the driveway to the garage punk Reis' groups have embraced.
Lest we lose perspective in the history of ventures leading up to See You in Magic, it's important to remember that the Night Marchers are not a one-man band. Seasoned Swami veteran Gar Wood's jangley guitar leads are crucial to the path each song takes, whether it be a congenial sweep through the notes as "Jump in the Fire" evoking a Beatles-like warmth, or the ragged chord slams of "Bad Bloods" and honky-tonk hints of "Open Your Legs." In the latter, bassist Tommy Kitsos of Toronto's new favorite, the CPC Gangbangs, spins some subtle fingerwork maneuvers in between pounding out the chords that by the three-minute mark cycles as tight as a loop. Fans of the Hot Snakes will notice a markedly more restrained Jason Kourkounis behind the kit, only letting loose with unbridled aggression for a few moments in "Total Bloodbath" and "I Wanna Deadbeat You," which must be a retort to RFTC's similarly threatening "I Flame You." The type of measured ferocity is evident on tracks like "And I Keep Holding On," which has the buzzing repetition and drone of Rocket from the Crypt's epic freakout anthem "Glazed."
Never a friend of sexual ambiguity in his lyrics, Reis' sentiments are unzipped and unapologetic, as he suggests "Strap me naked wrapped around you / I want more" within the first line of the opener, "Closed for Inventory," and goes on to concede, "We can blame it on your mattress / If that's what it takes" in "Jump in the Fire." The aforementioned "Open Your Legs" is about as unassuming as the Doors' "Light My Fire" was 40 years ago.
See You in Magic closes in ironically simple fashion with "We're Goin' Down" as Reis sturdily croons out the title-chorus over a layer of soothing electric guitar that seems to underline the meaning behind the music. Contrary to any hyperembellished mission statement to rewrite the rock and roll rulebooks penned by Mr. Reis himself, the Night Marchers do a brilliant job of simply delivering creativity and consistency in a manner so confident it seems hesitantly familiar from the first listen without ever sounding rehashed. In a time where most people have to continuously seek out self-indulgent rock and roll to stay satiated, the Night Marchers bring real rock and roll to the people.