The new album by Magic Bus arrives with perfect timing. Not only does it have a summery shine to it; instead of wallowing in the gloom and doom around us, it is peaceful and positive.
But it does that without being shallow or frivolous. Called ‘The Earth Years’ the album takes an earthly view on the human experience. The old “make love, not war” adage may be implied rather than explicit, but there is no mistaking the hippie lineage.
However, at least for us who have followed Magic Bus from their wonderful self-titled album back in 2010 to this, their fourth release, know that there is nothing contrived about them. Based in Devon, they practice the lifestyle that they preach, live in the moment and are not in a particular need to go anywhere.
As a result their music is simultaneously lazy and full of energy.
The album starts out with ‘Easy Om’. Om is said to be the first sound heard at the creation of the universe and might be interpreted as statement of intent for this album, given its title.
Even the first few drum beats of the intro capture the hard-to-define propulsive lightness of touch that so very much defines ‘In the Land of Grey and Pink’ era Caravan. Although that inspirational connection remains very much alive throughout the album, the music certainly isn’t just all Canterbury flavoured; another obvious spiritual companion from that era is Mighty Baby.
The songwriting quality is consistently high throughout, but the standout for me is nevertheless the fourth track. Titled ‘The Road to La Mezquita’ it seems to describe an imaginary journey to the great mosque-cathedral of Cordoba in Spain, seen from many perspectives, starting with that of a leaf:
I am the leaf
I float around
the empty city
We then get other points of view, from a mouse, a bird and even from a book. Humans are conspicuously absent from the journey, and as I listen I suddenly get a very strong image of the covid-19 pandemic lockdown situation we are in. People are holed up in their homes, and nature is reclaiming the outside world.
All we can do is participate in our minds, hence the refrain:
Indoor travelling, indoor travelogue
Indoor travelling, dream around the world
I am most certainly letting my imagination run a bit too free here. But that is, I believe, exactly the purpose that Magic Bus have with this record: To set you mind free. Call it a head trip if you wish.
Another highlight is longest track ‘Squirrel’ which again takes the outside world view – here represented by a little squirrel that runs around with feet that hardly touch the ground – and contrasts that with the inner workings of our minds. Towards the middle, the track resolves into a mantric chant and then rises up in a sublimely Caravanesque instrumental outro. Classic stuff.
The album ends in peace and harmony, with ‘We are one’ and the refrain:
We are one, one beneath the sun
We are one, together we are one
And indeed, there is no planet B. This is scientific fact and not just some druggy hippie sentiment. Either we act in unison, or we may well be about to put an end to the earth years for our species.