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Concrete Pillbox , 6.5/10
For Rent, 6/10
Dime Store Dream , 5/10
Off The Hook , 6/10
Street Date Tuesday, 5/10

John Freeman e i suoi Magnolias sono gli eredi della grande tradizione punk-pop di Minneapolis. Il loro primo album, Concrete Pillbox (Twin Tone, 1986), sfoggia un sound trascinante che dell'hardcore non ha conservato quasi nulla. Nonostante tentino in tutti i modi di riprodurre i riff epidermici alla Heartbreakers in danze scatenate come Keep It Inside e il powerpop alla Buzzcocks in canzoni come Got No Place, il loro forte risulta il rock and roll acrobatico e swingante alla Ten Years After (High Class) che talvolta indovina le stilettate chitarristiche blues, la cadenza brada e il canto insinuante dei Gun Club, semplicemente attenuati con ritornelli degni del Paisley Underground, e nascono allora Reach Out e My Own Life. L'album non e` rivoluzionario, ma mette a frutto il sound di Minneapolis in una forma facilmente commerciabile.

For Rent (Twin Tone, 1988), con un forte sound chitarristico e un forte battito monocorde in primo piano, prova appunto a trasformare l'idea in prodotto. Il risultato e` incerto, per quanto le melodie e i riff di Walk A Circle e Halfway Down The Road siano ancora trascinanti. La foga e l'impeto di Down & Out e Nothin' Much To Do sono quelli giusti, ma vengono sprecati in musica selvaggia da party, una sorta di garage-surf per il dopo-hardcore, quando non in vanesie dimostrazioni di potenza (fino a rifare il verso al southern-rock dei Lynyrd Skynyrd in Bring It Back). Le note epiche del primo album risuonano soltanto in Goodbye For Now. In compenso, Gangs in my Town e` una power-ballad alla Velvet Underground con chitarre jangling alla Byrds, un accattivante fraseggio di basso e un assolo eroico di chitarra.

Delude Dime Store Dream (Twin Tone, 1989), con un heavymetal da AOR poco fantasioso. Freeman scrive ancora canzoni di prima qualita`, da Flowin' Thru a Don't See That Girl, da Coming On Too Strong a In My Nightmare, ma nessuna ha la forza del capolavoro.

Off The Hook (Alias, 1992) sterza drasticamente verso il punk-pop con una serie di canzoncine rapide e innocue. Cio` che perde in intensita`, Freeman lo guadagna in comunicativita`. Le sue canzoni non erano mai state originali (i dischi precedenti erano per lo piu` antologie dei generi di Minneapolis) e adesso si rifanno semplicemente al power-pop (When I'm Not, Hello Or Goodbye ).

La qualita` poetica delle canzoni di Freeman dilaga su Street Date Tuesday (TRG, 1996), un disco che e` sempre meno un fatto musicale e sempre piu` un fatto personale.

Nei momenti migliori i Magnolias rappresentarono la quintessenza del sound di Minneapolis degli anni '80: melodici come gli Husker Du, epici come i Replacements, immediati come i Soul Asylum.

John Freeman writes:

I started a new band called The Pushbacks. We have been together since the summer of 1997. We have one CD out entitled "No Strings Attached".
If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.
(Courtesy of John Freeman)

The Magnolias formed in the winter of 1984 and performed their first show at the Uptown in Minneapolis on April 3rd 1985. Within two months we're at headline status and packing the area's clubs. Scouted by Independent labels in late 1985. Signed to Twin tone Records in Spring of 1986. Recorded 1st Album with Grant Hart of Husker Du producing. "Concrete Pillbox" was released in October of 1986. Tour of East Coast followed. Bassist John Joyce moved to New York and was replaced by Kyle Killorin in Early 1987. More touring followed. Writing duties and regional shows for most of 1987. Recorded "For Rent" in late 1987 and it was released in April 1988. More Touring out East. This pattern continued though the end of the eighties with original Drummer Ron Anderson leaving to concentrate on Tech. duties with local clubs and touring bands. Which he still does to this day. Tom Cook took over on Drums and played on "Dime Store Dream" (released Oct'89) which was a botched and hurried affair done by a very burnt out band and a rather uninterested producer. Recorded at at Princes Paisley Park Studios in the suburbs of Minneapolis. A twelve week tour of America followed with a hail of press and a video of "Pardon Me" getting play on MTV. While on West coast portion of tour our Distributor, Rough Trade goes bankrupt. Lack of distribution and Label problems with Twin Tone mount. Band Refuses to record with Twin Tone till distribution and promotion problems are resolved. While Playing SXSW 1991 in March, labels were checking us out. No big fish though. Eventually signed to Alias Records out of Los Angeles in late 1991. Member changes again. Tom Lischmann out and Kent Militzer in on Guitar. Kyle out and Caleb Palmiter in on Bass. Take time and Record what I think is our best album "Off the Hook". Released in April of 1992. Make two videos off the album, "Hello or Goodbye" and "When I'm Not". MTV turn both down. A 14 week tour of America follows in the heat of the summer. "Hung Up On" EP CD in released by Alias to support the second half of tour. At end of tour, Kent and Caleb, get the boot. Enter Bostonian Johnny O'Halloran on Bass and original guitarist Tom Lischmann on guitar. Record Demo's of new songs for Alias, who after hearing the demo, promptly fire us by telephone on Christmas Eve 1992.
Over next 3 to 4 years make demos and shop, tour, shop, tour. Change Guitarists along the way, Mike Leonard, who at the time led a band called the Bleeding Hearts, which had ex-Replacements Bob Stinson on lead guitar. The Magnolias finally settle with Eric Kassel on guitar. As demos and tours go nowhere, we eventually sign back to Twin Tone, which now goes under the moniker of TRG (Twin Tone Record Group). We're a mess and so is the label. Record "Street Date Tuesday" and it's released on a Tuesday in September of 1996. Try to patch a tour together out East with little interest. With nowhere near enough confirmed shows, I retreat to Italy for 2 Months in January 1997. And that is the end of The Magnolias story. After Returning from Italy, I call a friend and Ex-Bleeding Heart Drummer, Pat McKenna and together we tart working on my new songs. We find a Bass Player, Heather Johnson and Guitarist Randy Norby to fill out the rest of the band. I name us The Pushbacks. Play first show in August of 1997 to a sold out club in Minneapolis called the 7th Street Entry.

John Freeman, November 2000

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