Looking for a dose of much-needed jangle in your record collection? Let Miracle Legion do the trick with an exciting reissue of their lesser-known (and, to date, final) album, Portrait of a Damaged Family.
Released in 1996, Portrait of a Damaged Family found the New Haven, Connecticut quartet in somewhat of a different place than when they first burst onto the college rock scene more than a decade prior. Singer/songwriter Mark Mulcahy and guitarist Mr. Ray Neal had been the nucleus of the band since their debut for Rough Trade Records in 1983, though the band’s future was uncertain after the release of their third album, 1992’s Drenched, on the troubled Morgan Creek label.
Amazingly, most of the band–Mulcahy, bassist Dave McCaffrey and drummer Scott Boutier–used the unintentional gap in Miracle Legion’s lifespan to their advantage with a side project, Polaris. Commissioned for the express purpose of recording songs for the witty Nickelodeon children’s sitcom The Adventures of Pete and Pete, Mulcahy and Polaris introduced their talents to a whole new generation. (These recordings were ultimately collected for a record in 1999, itself reissued for Record Store Day last year.)
Eventually, Miracle Legion reconvened for one more album, Portrait of a Damaged Family, the first release from Mulcahy’s own Mezzotint label. The group’s wistful brand of personal jangle-pop hadn’t stiffened one bit, with sunny tracks like “Say I Had a Lovely Time” and “Madison Park” standing tall within the band’s discography.
In its time, the album was unfairly ignored, and Mulcahy remained a solo cult figure after the band’s dissolution through the 2000s. Ultimately, the tide began to turn in 2009, when a diverse crew of musicians (Thom Yorke, Michael Stipe, Frank Black and others) recorded a tribute album after Mulcahy’s wife died suddenly. In 2014 and 2015, Polaris embarked on their first ever tour, to the adulation of both longtime Miracle Legion devotees and new fans raised on their Pete and Pete material.
Happily, this reissue of Portrait of a Damaged Family–available digitally this Friday and on 1,000 copies of vinyl (for the first time ever) as part of Record Store Day–sees the return of Miracle Legion as well, with Mulcahy, Neal, McCaffrey and Boutier planning a span of dates across the U.S. and U.K. this summer. If you missed out on this record (and this band) 20 years ago, now’s as good a time as any to catch up.
Miracle Legion, Portrait of a Damaged Family (Mezzotint, 1996–reissued 2016) (Digital Links TBD)
- You’re My Blessing
- Say I Had a Lovely Time
- I Wish I Was Danny Kaye
- The Depot
- Madison Park
- Accidentally On Purpose
- Good for Her
- Gone to Bed At 21