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The press material that accompanies Magnet’s debut CD, Don’t Be a Penguin, trumpets the presence of Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker, pretty much at the expense of the group’s D.C.-based songwriter, Mark Goodman. Not that he’s complaining. “There are 10,000 bands out there these days, and it’s hard to get people’s attention. I think this will get people’s attention,” he says. (The quartet is out on tour, and the singer/guitarist is calling from the house of Martha Morrison, the widow of VU guitarist Sterling Morrison, with whom the band is staying.) But other than warbling with Goodman on “Summer & Winter” and on the title track, Tucker just sits behind her kit, banging away in the no-frills style she’s banged away in for over 30 years.
If it weren’t for Goodman’s catchy songs, the whole pro-Moe thing would come off as a sham. Even Goodman says, “If [people] don’t like the music or the songs, it will just be like a novelty record. The thing can’t survive without people liking the songs.” But good songs aren’t a problem for Goodman, who has been practicing his craft for several years. He even released three albums with Foggy Notion, a band whose name appears nowhere in Magnet’s promo notes, even though an early demo by that group was what brought Tucker and Goodman together. “The PC Music guys thought [the old name] would make [Magnet] look like too much of a Velvets worship project. And I didn’t argue with them,” he admits.
Like that of those 10,000 he mentioned earlier, Goodman’s writing is heavily indebted to the Velvets, as Magnet’s debut takes on the hazy melodicism of the VU at its poppiest (i.e., without John Cale to interestingly muck things up). But the 33-year-old Goodman says he rarely listens to the VU anymore. “Now I pull [the band’s records] out for nostalgia reasons, but [they’re] not in heavy rotation,” he says, citing Pavement, Beck, and Guided by Voices as more recent influences. “All three of them are really clever with their lyrics. They’ve got this way [so that] you’re never sure if the guy’s totally full of shit or if he’s just saying something meaningful that sounds good.”
Still, Goodman asks if I want to talk to Tucker. “Nah, you’re the band leader,” I tell him, and wish him well.
Magnet plays with Anne Summers, Saturday, May 10, at Iota, 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.