TWO-MINUTE MIRACLES with JIM GUTHRIE and WAYNE OMAHA at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), Friday (August 31), $8. 416-596-1908.
andy magoffin is the ontario pop underground's triple threat.His House Of Miracles studio in London is now the scene's laid-back recording venue of choice, with sessions by the Constantines, By Divine Right, the Weekend and Royal City put to tape. In his spare moments, Magoffin's also been pounding out time for friends like Dave Merritt in his Golden Seals ensemble.
But it's up front as a songwriter, not behind a drum kit or mixing desk, that Magoffin's been winding people up lately. The new Volume II disc by his Two-Minute Miracles is one of the year's strangest and most charming pop records, a delightful mess of front-porch whispers and fist-shaking power pop hits complete with "woo woo" choruses.
The disc begins with 20 seconds of smeared big-band pomp before launching into this summer's most unlikely pop song, the eminently hummable Name That Song. No two tracks sound the same, and only one tune, the hazy Song For The Weekend Girls, cracks the three-minute barrier.
It's a massive leap forward from the Two-Minute Miracles' Volume 1 debut, an equally concise album recorded when the band wasn't a band at all but just friends wandering through Magoffin's house.
"Things have become a lot more solid," Magoffin offers from his studio, where he's putting the finishing touches on Royal City's new album. "We're a lot more committed now, and everyone knows their place. It's a lot less "Andy and his accessories.'
"I think that spilled over into the record. A lot of the writing process was based on how I thought the band would play certain things. I guess that's how normal bands work, but we'd never done that before. The first record was just me goofing off with the four-track."
In addition to solidifying his lineup, Magoffin gives much of the credit for the larger sound on Volume II to the amount of time he's spent in his studio.
Decidedly big tunes like the fabulously named Rayon Queen In A Nylon Dream have the glossy production to fit their sharp pop smarts, something Magoffin admits he wasn't entirely comfortable with early on.
"I think I'm getting better at what I do," he laughs. "I've also lost that ill-founded concept that lo-fi means credible, and I think I understand now that maybe making a crisp, hi-fi record isn't a bad thing.
"Nobody's going to laugh and nobody's going to say, "You cheesy piece of shit, you've left your lo-fi roots behind.' Initially, there was a very conscious bent toward intentionally fucking things up so that we had the out. You could always say, "Well, it was just recorded on a four-track.' I think if you have a good tune, you should make it sound good."
By now, Magoffin's finding it hard to separate what he does behind the mixing desk and what he does in front of it. Check out most of the records he's recorded and he eventually turns up somewhere on the disc, whether it's shouting backup vocals on the Constantines' ferocious debut or drumming for the Golden Seals.
Interaction, apparently, is part of the House Of Miracles deal.
"It's a pretty open policy here," Magoffin confirms. "If there's an idea for a backing vocal that didn't occur to someone in the band, that idea gets shared. The same with the mixing. I think that's as important as the recording.
"It's addictive, though, this recording of other people's music. I'm getting the itch to start taping my own stuff again."