REVIEW: We Are Magic

While I’ve touched on her great EP, I’ve been criminally negligent in not really discussing much of Tonks and the Aurors’ stuff on this site. Well, as part of my on going Hit List, it’s time to finally rectify that by reviewing her third full-length studio album.

Steph is one of the wizard rockers most likely to make songs that are light on canon specificity, and use the framework of Harry Potter to make songs with broader themes. This is in no way a bad thing, but something that bugged me more back in the day. So, while not necessary, I’m still pleased by how specifically the first track is about Harry Potter. And the great thing is, it’s literally about Harry Potter, but still from Tonks’ point of view. She’s an Auror, and a damn good one, but life is hard, especially when you wonder if what you’re doing even matters. “Waste your summer praying in vain / For a savior to rise from these streets” – Tonks is beat down and tired, and if Harry would just hurry the hell up and fulfill his prophecies she really wouldn’t mind, you know? This song also gets surprisingly spiritual as it touches on Tonks’ relationship with death, including her own. “Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night” – and for those who do have faith? Well, “Heaven’s waiting on down the tracks” – a very interesting assertion, implying that Harry was not the only one to meet Dumbledore at King’s Cross that day in May.

The album rolls right into a more specifically Auror-related track, with a song about Tonks taking on a difficult situation all by herself. Two original characters get into a wizard brawl on Tenth Avenue (it’s not said where specifically, but my guess is Hogsmeade), and it becomes a BFD. Fortunately, Tonks is there to keep order. Unfortunately, she’s “on my own, I’m on my own / And I can’t go home”. What I love about this song is that it’s about a scary and tense situation, but filled with a lot of fun and pep – hope I get to see this one played live. We move right along into a still pretty fun sounding song that’s about even weightier material. This one is about Tonks remembering her time with Sirius, how great it was to be with him, and also how frustrating, especially as the end of his life neared. “You’re just a prisoner of your dreams” she accuses, which I can appreciate from her point of view, and is also a great line, but it’s not entirely fair of Tonks – like, he is also a physical prisoner inside the house he hated growing up in. And sure, Buckbeak may appreached the “rat traps filled”, but this further enforced isolation hurt Sirius more than Tonks could ever truly know.

You know how I said Steph sometimes writes songs lacking specificity in canon? This next song is anything but. In fact, it falls into my favored genre of musical fanfic songs. This track postulates and explores a deep and meaningful friendship between Tonks and the Ravenclaw everyone loves to forget – Terry Boot. The thing I love about this is that it is entirely possible. Tonks shows no compunctions making equitable friendships with Hogwarts students, Terry was in the DA, and both characters are enough on the periphery that they definitely could have had a relationship at some point without anyone knowing. And it makes a certain amount of sense that Tonks, who was often riddled with self doubts, could find a similar soul in a student, both “Trying to learn to walk like the heroes we thought we had to be”. Tonks walked in the shadow of Moody, and Terry, like many others his age, in the shadow of Harry. This song may not technically be canon compliant, but I surely won’t register a canon complaint. Eh? Eh? Jokes.

And now for the title track. Title tracks carry a lot of weight, because as soon as you see that there is one in the tracklisting, you wait for it eagerly. To be the title track, it has to be good, right? A great title track can make a good album memorable, and a bad one can sour an otherwise fine record. So how does this one hold up? In short, like gangbusters. It’s not a true Tonks and the Aurors album until the inevitable Remus track, and this is one of Steph’s very best. Like the rest of the album, it doesn’t shy away from venturing into dark places, quite literally in the case of their shared time bonding in The House of Black – “the mansions of glory in suicide machines”. You must enter the darkness to truly appreciate the light – even if the darkness encroaches so much that even day to day life feels like “a death trap, it’s a suicide rap”. But braving the night is always easier with someone beside you, and Tonks has found that someone in Remus:

Baby I’m just a scared and lonely rider
But I gotta know how it feels
I want to know if love is wild
Babe I want to know if love is real

I really like the shoutout to Remus’ werewolf nature with “I want to know if love is wild”. Some great instrumentation and a sense of focused and lovestruck energy really ties this title track together, making it one of the best.

The next track capitalizes on this forward momentum, but by looking backwards. Tonks has found her true love, but what about her past dalliances? It’s been mentioned before that she had a fling with Bill that “didn’t work out the first time around”. It’s not something that’s been as explored by Steph as her relationship with Charlie, but this is rectified with a song about Bill and Fleur, with Tonks reassuring Bill that yes, this half-Veela with “her soft French cream” (gross) and “French kisses” (slightly less gross), this girl – “she’s the one”. Tonks has come along way from the bitter loneliness at the beginning of this album and not only found love, but has matured enough to try and help her old flames find and secure their own loves as well.

And it’s a good thing that she found love, because her story is nearing its conclusion. But one story ending can allow another to begin, as this track shows in a funny yet sweet yet sad song from Tonks to Teddy. What’s really interesting about this song is that Tonks called her son “Eddie”, since his full name is of course Edward, named after his maternal grandfather, Edward “Ted” Tonks. I guess the extra T is something he picked up later in life? It causes the listener to wonder whether or not this would have happened if Tonks had lived, and just what else would have changed if he had not grown up an orphan. But such What If scenarios are only that – hypotheticals, because Eddie’s parents do decide to “go out walking”, and they pay the ultimate price.

Or do they? This is the question at the heart of the final song. The time has come, and the Battle of Hogwarts commences in an epic nearly ten-minute long track. First, the stage is set and the players are placed – the “Maximum Lawmen” are “Chasing the Rat and the barefoot girl” (Peter Pettigrew and Bellatrix, respectively). But soon, “The midnight gang’s assembled / And picked a rendezvous for the night” – where else if not Hogwarts? “The hungry and the hunted… face off against each other”. In the words of Aaron Burr, “the world will never be the same!” The battle rages, the soul of the wizarding world at stake. But still, Remus and Tonks cling to each other – “Two hearts beat / Soul engines running through a night so tender”. Finally, their fate approaches, while “Outside the street’s on fire in a real death waltz / Between what’s flesh and what’s fantasy”. They know what’s coming, and they meet their deaths with dignity: “They just stand back and let it all be / And in the quick of a knife, they reach for their moment / And try to make an honest stand”. And so, Tonks and her lover die with pride, and die as heroes. This is the story we all know, the one we have accepted and internalized.

Unless… unless… what if Jo got it wrong? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. What if that’s not what happened? This is the brave new interpretation of canon that Steph postulates – “But they wind up wounded, not even dead”. Not even dead. Wow. Powerful stuff.

And that’s really how to sum up this third studio album – powerful stuff. Do yourself a favor and checky-check check it. Wrock Snob out.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. KateKintail
    Oct 10, 2016 @ 15:05:38

    My review of the album from 2009: http://mysoundsofmusic.livejournal.com/3802.html

    Also, Tonks definitely sings “Teddy” not “Eddie” in “It’s True.” Maybe you need to turn the song up a little more when you Wrock out?

    Reply

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