Purson - Desire's Magic Theatre Album Review

Curtain up on the Prog Award winners’ unmissable second act.

Purson Desire's Magic Theatre album artwork

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If there were any sanity, let alone justice, in this crazy world, vocalist Rosalie Cunningham would be fast-tracked to international megastar status.

Never mind the joyous reality that Purson are a British psychedelic band with both an intuitive sense of exploratory wonder and the most incisive of pop sensibilities: Desire’s Magic Theatre proclaims its primary creator to be one of the most exciting and idiosyncratic musical visionaries of the century so far.

An endlessly inventive, mischievous and absorbing album of meticulously crafted psychedelia and theatrical bluster, the band’s second full-lengther takes Cunningham’s beloved 60s and 70s influences and slams them artfully together. As with the equally peculiar Knifeworld, Purson are reinventing psychedelia for a world dulled by interchangeable pop culture glossiness, and doing it with a sense of style that looks like the potential key to world-conquering success.

An endlessly inventive psychedelic tour de force.

Anyone questioning the lysergic credentials of this young band need only refer to the album title’s initials. DMT is a drug with a fearsome reputation for transporting its users to higher realms of consciousness and understanding, and while these songs might not be quite so ruthlessly effective in terms of altering one’s mental state, they certainly sound like the result of some pretty wild imaginative journeys.

At its most straightforward, Desire’s Magic Theatre echoes the inquisitive thrills of The Beatles and early Pink Floyd tunes that so gripped Cunningham’s subconscious as a child. Electric Landlady is an immaculate pop rock gem, with its shimmering analogue keys and bursts of Black Sabbath-style riffing, while The Way It Is is pure Vaudevillian jauntiness, bringing to mind Brit pop legends Madness at their quirky best or, perhaps, The Kinks after a particularly nasty bad trip.

Meanwhile, Mr Howard throws some Glitter Band stomp and a dash of Jefferson Airplane menace into the mix; Dead Dodo Down is a creepy Doors-a-like nursery rhyme gone wrong, underpinned by some arse-warping fuzz bass, and, most startling of all, The Window Cleaner’s cracked mirror mantra glides by on waves of Mellotron and yet more fuzz, sounding for all the world like a great, lost Nugget from the glory days of psych.

Ending with the vivid seven-minute splurge of The Bitter Suite and the Moog-powered frolic of the deluxe edition’s bonus track Unsure Overture, Purson have crafted something truly special here: a psychedelic tour de force that is as inviting and irresistible as the White Witch of Narnia’s Turkish Delight. In a world gone mad, albums like this provide the best kind of life-affirming escape. Don’t miss out.

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.