Magazine - After The Fact
When Howard Devoto left the Buzzcocks he claimed it was because, after the release of Spiral Scratch, all his musical ambitions had been achieved. Not only does that seem to suggest that his musical ambitions were very limited but it may have been a bit of a porky pie on his part for within a short while he was back fronting a new band, Magazine. A radical departure in terms of style and feel from the Buzzcocks, Devoto abandoned the whiny teenage-angst ridden vocal style of guitar-driven powerpop and dived straight in to what eventually became known as post-punk.
Magazine were a top-notch band in many ways, but one which never got the recognition they deserved in my view, even among those who did not stick rigidly to the mainstream. I know people rated the Gang of Four as the precursors of post punk, and so they were in many cases, but Magazine were, to my mind, the leading band linking the punk to the post punk eras after Siouxsie and the Banshees and Wire, and I was never that keen or heavily into Wire at the time anyway. If you are scratching around to locate the true roots of post-punk, then Magazine are band which should be high on your list for they pre-dated even Joy Division.
This compilation contains selections from all their studio albums and has truly captured the best work Magazine did. As its title suggests, it was released after the band's demise. Howard Devoto was too mercurial, it seems, to have sustained anything for too long and Magazine were no different from his other projects. Whether he would have stuck around if the band had garnered some of the acclaim they surely deserved is another matter. Whatever the merits of that debate, this album shows that magazine were a band who had the ability to turn out some classy tracks.
The music is compelling, right from the opener, "Shot by Both Sides". It never lets up from there. Many of the tracks, "Motorcade" being the obvious one, have a haunting quality which so typified the post punks who followed on behind Magazine. In the same way that the Buzzcocks began to do, around the same time, Magazine explored the darker side of life. This is something which is apparent in almost all of Magazine's work and for which they stood out as precursors of much that went on in the eighties. Given their Manchester roots it is not hard to see how Joy Division may even have had them as an influence.
But those two tracks do not stand out alone from the rest of the collection. Both “This Poison” and “A Song from Under the Floorboards” have a timeless quality which put Magazine far ahead of their time in many ways. To my mind, the highlight is the stunning, “The Light Pours out of Me” which has a throbbing bass-rhythm line periodically building into that climactic refrain, overlaid by a single keyboard note being hit over and over again. If you have not heard this, then you have not heard Magazine at their best. This track ought to be more widely known than it is.
Indeed, the whole album, which represents the true best of Magazine, has stood the test of time well in a way that many albums of its era have not. In that sense it is a superior collection of songs to anything the Gang of Four ever did (and in that I include their most critically-acclaimed album, Entertainment!). As a consequence this album is an essential introduction to the musical corpus of Magazine and possibly even the whole of the post-punk genre.
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