Summer sleeper albums #1 The Magic Theatre – London Town


Over the next couple of days I am going to do a series of posts on albums that have soundtracked my summer – starting with this chamber pop masterpiece.

In theory it doesn’t sound that promising. It’s a heavily orchestrated, Victorian-influenced, time-travel concept album conceived by members of a band who kind of got overlooked at the tail-end of Brit pop. Quite! But in reality London Town is an absolute gem with many great songs, gorgeous string arrangements and stunning performances. Most incredible of all is that it kind of achieves what it sets out to and you really do get a sense of London in the late 60s and 1880s.

London Town is the pet project of Dan Popplewell and Sophia Churney, who advanced level 90s pop students will know were the talent and the voice of Ooberman. With London Town the band took the money they had made from creating library music, requisitioned an East European orchestera and brought this magical (every pun intended) piece of music to life. At the risk of incurring the wrath of hardcore Ooberman fans (and there are more than you might think) this is way superior to anything the duo have done before.

What is especially impressive is the way the album leaps between musical genres yet still sounds seamless. So it chugs in with a sparkling piece of catchy 60s pop in Steamroller, then heads back a century or so with Out There and St Agnes Eve, striking pop songs given a Victorian ambience by some eery sounding wind instruments and oriental strings.

And so the tale of the time travelling lovers continues (it isn’t quite as cheesy as it sounds) with the pefect sunshine pop of Summer Sun and the gentle lullabye of Rowing Boat Song. Inevitably it all goes pair shaped for the duo, but if anything the angst and longing take the album to new heights on Silent Snow and Elegy.

I haven’t stopped playing this since I got it a month or so ago. It is utterly addictive. What is so heartbreaking is that an album that was such a labour of love for those who made it, might only get heard by a few people. Tragic.

It would be amazing to see this live, preferably in some spooky Victorian London theatre, with the Slovak Radio Orchestra and Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir in tow (although I’d take The Union Chapel and a load of tapes). How about it?

Incidentally you can hear the whole album on Spotify and via the band’s website

And here’s St Agnes Eve


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