Wednesday, March 04, 2015
I have never once bandied around the name MAGAZINE with any kind of enthusiasm in the decade-plus existence of this blog - a blog, fer chrissakes, how antiquated is that? - and there's no time like now. My brother has owned an LP edition of the band's 1978 debut, Real Life, since the early '90s. Back in the day - the early '90s, that is - I would occasionally borrow it to spin, mainly because I wanted to hear 'The Light Pours Out Of Me' (ably covered by Trotsky Icepick on their El Kabong LP, of course) and 'Shot By Both Sides' - both bona fide post-punque classiques. But the rest of the album never made much of an impact on me. Compared to the likes of The Pop Group or PiL's more righteous moments (or indeed the great works of the Buzzcocks), it all sounded a little tres boringue to my short/fast/loud ears. Now that I've entered middle age and am willing to give just about anything a shot, Real Life has become a fixture. This reignition of interest was borne from a mere Facebook sharing c/o a friend of the above track: a blindingly good slab of angular punkified rock, one which Mr. Howard Devoto would probably take great pains in explaining it not to be 'punk rock' (and not to split hairs, but it really isn't.
Magazine are/were an odd entity: Howard Devoto left the Buzzcocks - one of the finest Brit '77 punker outfits, w/ or w/out Devoto at the helm - just when they were about to break big, claiming that 'punk' had become a bogus entity and wanted nothing to do w/ it. Given the tabloid nature of the yoof movement in Ol' Blighty by that point, he may have been right. A gutsy move which showed such integrity it bordered on career suicide. He held such sway as a burgeoning cult figure that Virgin Records pretty much signed his new outfit w/out having heard a note of their music (they were certainly signed prior to their first live show). Eschewing the visceral snarl of his contemporaries, Magazine were a very deliberate and even mannered take on 'art-rock', but one with enough rock energy under its individual players' belts to not wind up a snoozefest.
Firstly, there's guitarist John McGeogh (since deceased), who later spent time w/ Siouxsie & The Banshees (on their best discs) and PiL (on some of their worst, but don't blame him for that) - one of Limey post-punk's finest string-hitters; bass player, Barry Adamson, who later made a name for himself w/ the Bad Seeds and as a solo artist, whose nimble fingers really do add to the rhythms in Magazine's tuneage; and skinsman, Martin Jackson, a flashy player with more mounted toms than the average '77 punker (almost bordering on 'flash'), but one whose dexterity really added to their sound.
The 'sound' of '70s Magazine is one w/ obvious roots: early '70s Eno, specifically Here Come The Warm Jets/Taking Tiger Mountain (Devoto looked a whole lot like his hero, too) and the Berlin recordings of Mr. Bowie (primarily Low). In lesser hands, such allegiances to that kind of musical foppery (foppery I do indeed like a lot) might result in a decidely non-rocking affair not worth my time or yours, but 'rock' they did. Much like Wire's 2nd and 3rd LPs - which Magazine resemble in no small part - Real Life (and its follow-up, 1979's Secondhand Daylight: also well worth your time) show a sense of 'composition' and musicianship which appear above their station, but the musical sophistication never becomes a bore, the dynamic rhythms and textures of the songs, combined with the inherit energy of the material, making for a thrilling listen. Devoto is one odd duck, but he made some of the most exciting English music of the era. Solid.