Some bands exist purely to have me love them. I am convinced of this fact.
Magazine is one of these bands. The project Howard Devoto was in after leaving the Buzzcocks was the apex of post-punk bands. The fact that the members of these bands would also play in British acts like Visage, Swing Out Sister, Ultravox, and Public Image Ltd. says much about the bands diverse taste and gift for melody and deconstruction.
As far as Magazine albums go, this is their most commercial/accessible. You start here if you want to get into Magazine. There are only four albums, and The Correct Use Of Soap comes third. Their début Real Life is a masterpiece as well, but a darker record overall. Devoto was a bitter lyricist. The poppy songs on The Correct Use of Soap, less angular and electronic, more organic and melodic, counter the bite Devoto brings, making the album a joy rather than a chore. Many people who love Magazine will probably criticise this choice, preferring Real Life.
Fine, but Real Life doesn’t have the Sly Stone cover. And that is worth the price of admission here.
Ah, yes, the Sly and the Family Stone cover. All the soul and dance party may have been stripped from the track, it may be cold and clinical in comparison to the original, but it’s a pretty fantastic cover. I honestly prefer this version of “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” to the original simply because I have always been distracted by Sly’s antics. Howard Devoto is resigned, cynical, and devoid of joy when he sings this song. That being said, the band was pretty funky on this track. Great bass.
The band’s biggest hits were both on this record. First is the post punk classic “Sweetheart Contract”, a song that sound like it should be on Gang of Four’s Entertainment, and the now legendary ( thanks to Morrissey) “A Song From Under the Floorboards”. The former is harsher and more jerk than smooth. The latter sounds like a Smith’s song. Devoto in the former sings about receiving weapons and getting an education. The other sees him hiding under an avalanche of self loathing. The songs are both typically Magazine while sounding almost completely opposite from each other.” A Song From Under The Floorboards” remains my favourite Magazine song, and is one of my top one hundred songs from the 1980s.
There are other gems on this record. There is bouncy opener “Because You’re Frightened”, the boogie woogie piano laced “Model Worker”, the sarcastic and snide “Philadelphia”- it’s a fantastic record lost in the history of music. Not many people outside the U.K. have heard of Magazine. Fewer even own one of their albums. They were never the best-selling of the post-punk era. Devoto would retire from music entirely in 1990 and work in a photographic archive. Magazine, though, reconvened in 2009, played the Electric Proms, and started talking about a new record. If there is new music coming, I can’t wait.
Of course, I love the album title as well. It’s just completely “What?”.