The Magnolias | Better Late Than Never

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Better Late Than Never

by The Magnolias

Rock'n'roll (pop-punk) that's hard, melodic, loud and tight. Songs that are honest, from the heart and from the gut. Where all great music surfaces from.
Genre: Rock: Punk-Pop
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Even Without You
3:03 $0.99
2. Easy to Forget
2:17 $0.99
3. Duel
1:56 $0.99
4. Time Bomb
3:09 $0.99
5. Trashbin
2:57 $0.99
6. Tear Up This Town
3:01 $0.99
7. Don't Pack It In
2:43 $0.99
8. Torture Yours
2:01 $0.99
9. Way Out
1:30 $0.99
10. Favorite
3:04 $0.99
11. Where Do You Go?
3:45 $0.99
12. Another
3:43 $0.99
13. On the Dime
3:03 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Formed in Minneapolis in December 1984, the Magnolias released five albums/CD’s and one EP from 1986 to 1996 on Twins Tone Records and Alias Records. This new CD, on SMA Records, contains unreleased recordings of the band between the years 1990 and 1997. Better Late Than Never contains a total of 13 tracks, eleven of which were recorded in the studio and two live tracks.. Amongst these thirteen tracks are seven songs that have never appeared in any form on any previous Magnolias release.


THE MAGNOLIAS Discography:

Concrete Pillbox (TwinTone) 1986
For Rent (TwinTone) 1988
Dime Store Dream (TwinTone) 1989
Hung Up On ... EP (Alias) 1992
Off the Hook (Alias) 1992
Street Date Tuesday (Twin Tone) 1996
Better Late Than Never (SMA) 2007

THE PUSHBACKS (Fronted by John Freeman)
No Strings Attached (Veto) 1999

Formed in the towering shadow of Hüsker Dü and the Replacements and a few years behind Soul Asylum, the Magnolias were doomed to be Minneapolis' scruffy also-rans, the band that got left behind when everyone else graduated to the big leagues. And while the revolving-lineup group never developed a national profile anywhere near the scale of those other bands, singer/guitarist John Freeman has persevered, making music to be properly proud of.

The Mags spew back hometown styles with gusto on Concrete Pillbox, which they co-produced with Grant Hart. (Note the familiar drum sound.) Some of Freeman's songs show real melodic and structural promise; a bit of power pop (and a faint Cheap Trick influence) emerges in the quartet's aggressive playing.

Replacements soundman Monty Wilkes co-produced For Rent, a looser, better-developed collection that features a new bassist and a snare-happy mix. Roaring out of the starting gate with "Walk a Circle," "Glory Hop" and "Goodbye for Now," the Mags shed imitation (save an abiding Buzzcocks influence) for a loud, textured personality they can call their own. Over catchy riffs that put a nifty twist into the hard-driving songs, Freeman's voice registers aggression in both hoarse rage and quiet poise. A very promising sophomore LP.

Recording the inconclusive Dime Store Dream in Prince's Paisley Park Studios didn't make the Magnolias funky, but it did give them a raging guitar sound. A busy new drummer and producer Jim Rondinelli's overheated mix interfere with the group's small-scale charm, but some cool songs ("Flowin' Thru," "Don't See That Girl," the pseudo-Replacements "Coming on Too Strong," "In My Nightmare") do cut through. While Freeman's singing gives the album its reassuring consistency, bits of vocal syncopation add an intriguing new dimension.

That trio of records, however, was just a warmup for Off the Hook. Played with taut, scrabbly precision by returning drummer Tom Cook, super bassist Caleb Palmiter and guitarist Kent Militzer, the best songs of Freeman's life portray a dispirited romantic avoiding anger and bitterness by discharging his emotional burdens into sensitive, tuneful, speedy rock'n'roll. Rarely has punk sounded such a winsome note. For an artless singer, Freeman's voice is incredibly expressive; carried along on bracing rhythm-guitar riffs woven with pretty lead figures, his wry lyrics and catchy hooks help Off the Hook rabbit-punch back at disappointment with a poker face and the certainty of a better day coming. "When you ask me how I'm doing / Do you really want to know? / And I'm lying when I tell you I'm fine / I'm really kinda low / But I put on a smile / If only for a while / But when I'm not up to giving / And when I'm not up to living / I think of tomorrow." Freeman's world here is fraught with ambivalence. "Hello or Goodbye" attempts to resolve a bi-polar relationship; in "Matter of Time," a lover is heading out west, and Freeman balances his disdain for the smog and sure-to-break dreams of Los Angeles with cocky hope for her return. Chalking up eleven fine originals and a bristling cover of Chris Osgood's perplexed "Complicated Fun" — all inside 40 minutes — Off the Hook is everything a punk-pop record should be.

Hung Up On... piles together the album version of "When I'm Not," a needless remix of "Hello or Goodbye," a goofy Hanna-Barbera cartoon song ("Way Out") and three live numbers, including "Last Train to Clarksville" and "Fathers and Sins," a cruel attack on Hank Williams Jr. given a reprise from Dime Store Dream.

Street Date Tuesday brings a new set of Mags back to the racks with no diminution (or much change of any sort) in the power of Freeman's terse, vulnerable spirit. The album's extra-feisty sound is occasionally matched by lyrics of angry frustration ("Dropping Blood and Names," "Bullet for a Badman"), but the strongest and most stirring tunes again allow hope to get a foothold ("Hello Belinda," "Weather Couldn't Get Any Better," "Even Without You"). And the deliberate "Polecat Creek" is downright poetic in its affecting connection of private and public places. If not quite the equal of Off the Hook, Street Date Tuesday still flies the Mags' flag high and loud.
The group broke up in 1997. (reformed now)

[Ira Robbins]

Freeman also played in the Bleeding Hearts (1993) then formed the Pushbacks (1997-2000) and The Action Alert (2000-2003).



to write a review


Great for fans of the band
Different versions of old songs, one or two tracks not on the albums and some live stuff. Great record if you're a long time fan of the band and want to hear something new. It's not like a new studio album, more like the best of the tapes John had laying around in his basement, but's been a long times since the last Mags album, so at this point, I'll take what I can get.


All Music Guide Review
The All Music Guide (The Big Take Over)
Better Late Than Never (SMA 2008)

Other reunions receive more ink, but the irregular-but-constant existence of this historic Minneapolis Buzzcocks/Undertones-loving, Real Kids/Replacements-sounding, punky garage-rock act was equally welcome. This prime vehicle for underrated, resurgent singer/songwriter John Freeman even hit South by Southwest in 2006, and they must have been thrilled to be alighting for Europe for the first time in 2008, 23 years after their first concert. And while old fans awaited threatened new material 12 years after the fifth LP Street Date Tuesday, SMA reissued and revamped this 1990-1997 overview/rarities collection originally on Satellite Six in 2005. Better Late Than Never has all the spirit and garage chops of their trio of older, '80s Twin/Tone records (their debut was produced by Hüsker Dü's Grant Hart, after all), with two cuts of especially valuable live work, which is where they've always triumphed most. Newcomers could start here, or anywhere, as this is a premier, honest to goodness, thick-guitar and big drums, melodic, and exciting club-rockin' band. ~

Jack Rabid, The Big Takeover, All Music Guide


Correction on above review
"contains a total of 13 tracks, eleven of which were recorded in the studio and two live tracks.. Amongst these thirteen tracks are SEVEN songs that have never appeared in any form on any previous Magnolias release."