Each Tuesday, FADER editor Matthew Schnipper highlights an underappreciated recent release he thinks we need to know about. This week it’s Magistrates' "Make This Work" 7-inch. Watch the song's video, buy their digital EP and read Schnipper’s thoughts after the jump.
Land of the Lost lost a lot of money. It made about $50 million dollars worldwide, which covered about the amount it cost to market it. The studio banked on the recognition of the old television show and the universal appeal of Will Ferrell. But they discounted the fact that the movie looked terrible. They had lots of bad ads constantly reminding you that you should not see this awful piece of shit. Seems like bad planning. How does something get to that stage? There are so many meetings involved, so much conceiving, conniving, nitpicking and promising. It’s hard to blame the creative folks involved—I doubt Danny McBride foresaw himself as an ox of a draw, I doubt the cinematographer thought it was a good idea to spend five trillion times his budget on subway ads—but it was not a strong product. When this reaches the business people, the marketers and the executives, why does no one realize? Do they believe because they’ve already spent so much they might as well spend more and cross their fingers? At what point does someone say, “This is not a good idea.” To any idea. It’s not Will Farrell who says, “Dinosaurs + time travel + khaki vest + barrel of cash = my dreams.” But his dreams are not the viewing public’s, and no one paid to see guys cracking jokes about running from brontosauruses.
A friend of mine who runs a record label told me that a band that is regularly written about wanted him to put out their album. But he said that despite hype, there was little to gain from releasing their record, as it would likely sell poorly and create infinite headaches and compromises. There is clearly a large difference between tenuously potential independent music and too-big-to-fail blockbuster films, but they are both endeavors which require collaborations between the business and creative worlds, however separate the scales. That is not an unusual pairing—we’re not working in the realm of real estate or finance—but a rocky one that so often creates unnecessary boulders to fruitful creation. Remember when Prince, rallying against his imprisoning record label, wrote “Slave” on his face? That was unpleasant. So many mistakes happen with cross-communication and bad anticipation. Don’t sign Prince in the first place, let him out of his contract, make him happy. His feverish anger with you will subside and the world will get more “Erotic City.”
But surely these relationships are more complex than I’ve made them out to be. Basic algebraic formulas of profit and loss cannot regulate all decisions. There are webs to be untangled, bets to be hedged, earnest hopes to fulfill and the general all-encompassing feeling that everyone believes in something together. I just hardly see Land of the Lost as a motivating factor for anyone in any realm of benefit. There’s nothing else for you to work on?
My position, fully outside of the business of building bands and releasing music, has usually left me cushy. While I have a strong love for Black to Comm, for example, I hardly see releasing his record as a strong business decision. That is a labor of love. I only have to worry about the “love” part. The labor is someone else’s business. But I can’t help be nosy. So, here goes: XL, where is the Magistrates album? Someone please work to get that out. It won’t make as much as they hoped Land of the Lost would, but it’s not going to lose millions of dollars. Some car company will absolutely license one of the songs for a picturesque commercial, some sedan hugging seaside curves listening to Magistrates’ piqued pleading. “Make this Work,” a song former Dollars to Pounds author Sam Richards first introduced via TheFADER.com more than a year and a half ago, is their only physical release, and it’s not branded XL. A 7-inch for the song was mailed to me months after they signed with only an a cappella for a b-side and no promise of anything further. With the exception of the digital EP for the silken “Heartbreak” (featuring some remixes and a song that used to be up on their MySpace page), there has been nothing. They’ve played on package tours in the UK, recorded funny videos of themselves backstage, sent letters to their email list with apologies for infinite delays. What’s the problem? “Make it Work” is a perfect pop song. That is a difficult commodity to create but an easy one to sell. If there are problems with replication, performance, confidence, work them out. But “Make This Work” was not singular. “Colour Coordination,” “The Inbetweens” and “Heartbeat” are all pumping pop life with male falsetto and the high registers of keys and guitar. They need some polish, but a year and a half of shining rubs away the lovable rust. Listening to “Heartbeat,” a song released after their XL signing, shows a slick sheen, crisper drums and a more even pacing. “Make This Work,” is frenetic and benefits from it. “Heartbeat” is tempered and warm, a different direction, one more immediate and fleshy. Magistrates sit flush in this professional kingdom, but don’t necessarily outrightly benefit from the tune up. Magistrates, XL, managers, lawyers, etc: You have solid gold in your hands and you are treating it like unwanted goo. We have enough goo but we are very poor. Let's trade.