THE BUZZCOCKS were one of the first ever British Punk bands. Their leader Howard Devoto booked the very first SEX PISTOLS gigs in his native Manchester (what would lead to the formation of JOY DIVISION apart form THE BUZZCOCKS).
Howard Devoto left THE BUZZCOCKS to form one of the very post-Punk bands, MAGAZINE. Therefore, he was one of the early "traitors" of Punk movement. Pete Shelley kept THE BUZZCOCKS for a brief post-Devoto lifespan firmly in Punk Rock grounds.
Punk Rock was a revivalist revolution. Against Progressive Rock's laser beam pomp and Jazz and Classical experiments, it brought back simple, straightforward Rock N'Roll. Technical prowess? Do it yourself. Issues ranging from teenage boredom to nuclear holocaust filled Punk Rock records whereas Progressive Rock pondered on mysticism. Progressive Rock was an offspring of hippies. Punk Rock, of 1950s misfits and Teddy Boys.
Howard Devoto and his companions were considered "traitors" because they resorted to experiments, even though not pompous ones, calling some other stations than Rock N'Roll ones. They also had more technically demanding songs. Lyrics dealt with social and romantic issues, but in more abstract fashion. Curse of all curses, keyboards were prominent!
I believe post-Punk and New Wave helped bridge the gap between two Rock N'Roll generations, 1960s and 1970s. Therefore I don't call Devoto & Cia "traitors". To me they are simply great artists. Therefore, 1978's Real Life is not an statement on betrayal. It is a criticism of, and an advance regarding, Punk Rock. It is aesthetics in motion.
MAGAZINE differed from THE BUZZCOCKS in some aspects. Pete Shelley's quirkiness was sorely missed, replaced by earnest songwriting. The unmistakable riffs were buried underneath layers of synths and found-sounds. Exotic percussion and mysterious synths predated New Wave African and New Age Asian obsessions. Lyrics dealt with more intimate, reflective issues. This was definitely somber and meant to be serious Rock N'Roll with brains.
The band was slightly superior in what comes to technical prowess. Devoto's companions would be regarded as fine players by other bands which would eventually pick them ending MAGAZINE for practical purposes. Guitarist John McGeoch would play for SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES, PIL and VISAGE; bassist Barry Adamson, for NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS, BIRTHDAY PARTY and also VISAGE; drummer Martin Jackson for CHAMALEONS UK and SWING OUT SISTER. Keyboardist Bob Dickinson after playing the debut single opened gates for the cherry on this post-Punk cake which runs by the name of Dave Formula, another VISAGE alumni. It was the perfect ensemble for Devoto's intellectual ruminations.
Definitive Gaze is the opening slot, an amazing transition from Punk Rock's linearity to post-Punk angularity and then to New Wave's manifold strands.
We have a guitar riff as acute as THE BUZZCOCKS's best; a haunting bass lead predating JOY DIVISION; ethereal keyboards that recast BRIAN ENO days on ROXY MUSIC; exotic Reggae-like percussion and unsettling vocals. All rendered with finesse; an early post-Punk classic, all-encompassing and distinctive from anything before. We have also a dissonant piano providing a fine counterpoint in the final section. Sometimes the synergy resembles ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN other times we remember that Damon Albarn didn't invent THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY out of the blue. It sounds as if BOLSHOI was a great band after all.
My Tulpa sounds Space Age THE CURE in a frantic romp of chemical optimism. Noise snippets are positively intriguing. Take a spin or two to Japanese Whispers and Wild Mood Swings thereafter! The chorus is one of the most accessible here and barely disguises the psychedelic influences: "I wanna see you/Don't you wanna see me?/I wanna see you/But you can't see me". The bouncing bass perfectly fits the theatrical atmosphere as if STEREOLAB and THE DANMED collided occasionally. And the coaxing sax if of course ROXY MUSIC again!
Shot By Both Sides is one of the last reminiscences of THE BUZZCOCKS - maybe that's why it was Devoto's choice for a debut single. It was built around a Pete Shelley guitar riff. Ironically it deals with the situation of post-Punk, too uncommercial to mainstream tastes and still considered "traitors" by their former Punk fellas. The existential crossroads is rendered simply spellbinding in its THE STOOGES heritage of descending, doomy Punk riffs and encapsulating production. One of the crowning jewels of post-Punk, it directly made possible FRANZ FERDINAND's This Fire and MAXIMO PARK's Limassol among others (FUTUREHEADS etc). Lyrically, much more elaborate than THE CLASH renowned anthems. A personal favorite as well.
Recoil keeps the straightforward approach, punctuated by occasional gloom and doom. It sounds SEX PISTOLS in a ether bubble. Percussion-wise it is very simple, yet, unsettling. It is the most "traditional" song here. Tempo shifts abound. Mini-solos are noisy and vocals are clear and snotty. It is a jumbled transitional song, but this is an eloquent one.
Burst's title speak for itself. Especially in what regards Emo bands (which frequently quote THE BUZZCOCKS). This are Emo emotions (hum...) bursting through the bubble of post-Punk abstraction. Suddenly we have psychedelia once again thrown in their mix. Burst is an odd song, like amber, it seems a stone concrete but on the inside it derivates from living things. The slow, extended textured solo is McGeoch demonstrating that his future lied with SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. And Devoto sings in a dark holler tone. This is an early Gothic anthem.
The intricate Motorcade was the closer they got to a desert ballad here. Keyboards and overall angularity evoke broad sonic landscapes whereas LOU REED-like vocals turn the thing into semi-conscientious social criticism. Oddly it all reminds me of MIDNIGHT OIL which by the way articulated the desert search as metaphor better than any 1980s band including U2's Joshua Tree. Indeed the comparisons stop when the band increases the song's tempo to a frantic rush of slurred vocals and JOY DIVISION decadentism. Bouncy keyboards add to the overall feel of alienation. Too broad, too far from Punk Rock, into the great beyond of human existence.
The Great Beautician In The Sky (?) is a surprising circus-like little ditty in the best (or worst) tradition of PIL's ironic toughness instead of THE BEATLES' Being For The Benefit of Mr.Kite cutesiness. It is a frantic aggregate of lo-fi found sounds (one that sounds like a train is particularly noticeable) that provide unsettling background for theatrical snail's pace Devoto's sneer. The farcical strings are uncannily turned into thin guitar-keyboard lines at the blink of an eye. Half psychedelia and three halves parody, it all coalesces in a Pub Rock chorus. PIL loves it. I don't love nearly as much but I respect this loony debacle mess.
The Light Pours Out Of Me (beautiful title) displays key MAGAZINE instrumental synergy again. As Definitely Gaze, multiple parts don't simply stand still. There's downtrodden Punk roots thrown in the melting pot of echoey vocals to the forefront, detached angular guitars, textured synths. Devoto sounds a sneering, literate skeptical counterpoint to Ian Curtis' unfleshy bloody despair. This is the closer we get to the archetypical MAGAZINE song. They are not meant to transcend the mold, the thing is to be said.
Parade provides the last sting on otherwise moribund Punk Rock with a piano-driven electronic ballad that RADIOHEAD would find a place for in their Hail to the Thief record. Fussy electronics lead Devoto to another cynical ponderance on the unsettling effects of relationships on human beings ("Sometimes I forget we are supposed to be in love/Sometimes I forget my position"). There's a quiet menace to the song that quite never finds release, much as MAGAZINE's own brief, influential career, which lead other people grasp the rewards for bringing Rock N'Roll to another dimension. It makes sense, it was the only number Devoto didn't pen himself here. See ya!
File under: post-Punk
* * * * * Definitive Gaze
* * * * My Tulpa
* * * * * Shot by Both Sides
* * * 1/2 Recoil
* * * * Burst
* * * * 1/2 Motorcade
* * * 1/2 The Great Beautician in the Sky
* * * * 1/2 The Light Pours out of Me
* * * 1/2 Parade