Miracle Legion: Portrait of a Damaged Family

by Alex Monzel

In celebration of Record Store Day, Miracle Legion reissued their 1996 album Portrait of a Damaged Family. Now twenty years old and remastered by Ian Kennedy, Portrait finally gets the release it should have two decades ago along with an additional track. I must admit, it’s rather intimidating to review an album almost as old as myself, but let’s give it a try.

This record is beautifully inconsistent. On the first listen, you’ll never know what emotion the next track will drag out of you. Will it make you smile like “Madison Park,” or will it place in you in a state of somber reflection like album’s final track “Gone to Bed at 21?”

Mark Mulcahy is a songwriter that’s not defined by any one thing. While some artists can write five albums about one breakup, Portrait does not confine itself to a singular emotion or event. Mulcahy’s beautifully crafted metaphors range from thought-provoking to hilariously intriguing. To single out only one member of this quartet, however, would be misleading. They’re each talented individuals who are quite adept at their craft.

By the way you’re right, Miracle Legion, I do wish I was Danny Kaye too.

Utilizing a variety of instruments, meters, and sounds this album does not get bogged down in complacency. The whole, however, is still greater than its parts. Each track is connected as if an invisible string was threaded through each song. Portrait is a bittersweet reminder that today’s music isn’t about records, rather it’s about selling singles on iTunes.

This album marks both a commemoration of record stores and an emergence into the digital markets for Miracle Legion. The band will tour in support of the re-release in the US and UK during July and August, respectively. I, for one, am rather excited for the chance to see them in concert (even if the rest of the crowd is twice my age).

Thank you for this reissue. I had not realized how much I was missing the 90’s until I listened to this.

Rating: 8.5/10

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