‘Tuned In’ review: Luscious Jackson’s tricky ‘Magic’ keeps it casual

'Magic Hour' by Luscious Jackson

"Magic Hour" by Luscious Jackson

Luscious Jackson seems to have made an informal reunion in order to knock out the new “Magic Hour.”

The New York City dance-funk band’s first new release since 1999’s “Electric Honey” sounds very casual - demo-level casual. Perhaps the trio of Jill Cunniff, Gabrielle Glaser and Kate Schellenbach were going on-the-cheap for their crowd-funded release. Or maybe they were fully satisfied that these 10 tracks were good to go.

Certainly the trademark Luscious Jackson rhythms are solid and domineering. “Magic Hour” shakes and shimmies just as hard as listeners can take it, with mesmerizing effect. Dance-oriented grooves vibrate and hypnotize in an exhilarating, lustful trippiness, from the sexual meltdown of “#1 Bum” to the insistent churn-and-swarm romance of “Love Is Alive.”

The vocals and lyrics, which are nothing but “la la la’s” in the chorus of opener “You and Me,” appear to be more about mood than meaning. Unless lines like “We be dancing all night long” (“Aaw Turn It Up”) and “Ooo, show us what you got” (“Show Us What You Got”) seem meaningful. Meanwhile, the butt-obsessed “#1 Bum” hinges on coy repetitions of, “I got your back” and other lines like, “I love watching you go/Go/Keep walkin’ … mmm.”

The vocals are especially undercooked, cartoonish at times and often off-kilter. Compared to the smooth harmonies and sly lines of 1990s hits like “Naked Eye” and “Ladyfingers,” the “Magic Hour” songs are nothing more than sex-charged adolescent notions exclaimed with semi-amateurish enthusiasm.

Also, apart from the mighty rhythms, the arrangements are relaxed and jam-like, elements of rock and pop snaking around the funk foundation.

It’s so loose it barely holds together, like an atmospheric dream with no focus or storyline. Yet “Magic Hour” is perfectly primal, inviting its audience into a narcotic netherworld, even when the electricity flares up.

Rating: 3 stars (out of five)

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