Magnifico - Magnification
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From the first suggestive Roy Orbison growl to the last Sponge Bob Hawaiian guitar strains of this remarkable totem of audio kitsch, Slovenian singer-songwriter Magnifico (aka Robert Pešut) has a stage name to match a pastiche persona whose insouciant excesses allude simultaneously to Liberace, Madonna, Borat, Duane Eddy, Ennio Morricone, Clint Eastwood and then some. To put it differently - with an edgy Balkan energy that feels as if it might erupt in heedless violence at any moment - Magnification is an apocalyptic, take-no-prisoners redux of (to borrow from Morricone) once upon a time in the (capital “W”) west, Magnifico’s pointed critique of a prevailing global pop sensibility of hatred, homophobia, sexism, racism and genocide. Italy and the Balkan world have embraced the singer since the early 1990s, and now it’s time for the rest of us.

Magnification is a gleeful, genre-busting, broken English mash-up with a dizzying stream of polyglot cultural references, from “Zum Zum” - which could be Sarkozy’s theme song as he expels the Roma from France - to “Bosangero Nero,” a kind of anti-“Wonderful World” (with no disrespect for Sam Cooke) in which the singer pleads innocence before his police interrogator. There are twisted love songs like “Ubicu Te,” the singer closing with a half cry, “If I have to kill you honey/ trust me, I will”; or “Amore,” a rub-a-dub earworm; and “Emily,” with its menacing command, “Emily, after-midnight company/ I want to see you dancing just for me/ Emily, look at me/ Move your body close to me/ I’m going to lose my temper, Emily/ I will always love you…”

“Giv Mi Mani” turns the singer’s x-ray monocle on the invisible whoring hand of filthy lucre, with a pounding drums of passion quid pro quo, “Give me money/ And I can be so funny/ If you call me honey/ I’ll call you honey bunny… / Sex and drugs and rock and roll/ I got a million-dollar smile/ All I need is what I am/ Give me/ Live me/ Download me now…” Things turn more somber with “Land of Champions” (sung to the tune of “House of the Rising Son”), Magnifico’s dark reflection on the slow-moving mass disaster that was Yugoslavia during the 1990s, with a brassy oompah tagline and towering Red Army chorus sound that is its own post-ironic commentary: “There was a land of champions / Called Yugoslavia/ It’s been the ruin of many a poor boy/ And god I know I’m one” (if Tito isn’t rolling over in his grave, it’s not for trying). Then Magnifico pulls the rug out from under with his segue into a bouncy, upbeat, shit-kicking “Hir Ai Kam Hir Ai Go,” a kind of world road song (think global “Route 66”) in which he casually ticks off all the many stops in his planetary peregrinations. The coup de grace is “Modern,” a po-mo assertion of thoroughly tragic, rootless, end-of-history identity. Not to be missed, this one. - Michael Stone

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CD available from cdRoots

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