They say history really never repeats itself/But it nearly always rhymes’, Howard Devoto sings on Holy Dotage, and he should know. It’s been 30 years since Magazine – the first and best post-punk group – split.
They’d released four studio albums (two of which – Real Life and The Correct Use Of Soap – are brilliant) and fizzled out. Guitarist John McGeoch had already left, to further the careers of Siouxsie And The Banshees and PiL, while bassist Barry Adamson went on to write real and fake movie soundtracks and play with The Bad Seeds.
Magazine reformed a couple of years ago, encouraged by a series of comeback gigs and a growing reputation among everyone from Radiohead to Morrissey. Both McGeoch – no longer with us – and Adamson (directing his first film) are absent, leaving original members John Doyle on drums and Dave Formula on keyboards (and isn’t Dave Formula the best new wave name ever?). They’re joined by Noko from Devoto’s later band, Luxuria, and a new bassist called Stan White.
And they’re very much back. No Thyself is densely produced and thick with work for the listener. One or two songs echo previous glories and there is, perhaps unsurprisingly, no son of Shot By Both Sides. But it works. From the zippy riffer of Do The Meaning to the prickly funk of Happiness In English, No Thyself is very good.
As befits the band most tagged as ‘punk prog’ at the time, it’s full of musical twists and turns. There are waltzes. There are grand synth breaks, funk bass lines and chunky riffs. It’s both classic Magazine, and Magazine in 2011. Best of all, it’s a vehicle for rock’s most sardonic lyricist. Other Thematic Material sees Devoto veer from suburban satire: ‘When we have the neighbours round let’s try that weird sorbet’) to sheer filth: (‘Spread your pussy/ Use both hands’).
In Hello Mister Curtis (With Apologies), he confronts the dead – ‘Hello Mister Curtis/Hello Mister Cobain/Tell me where the hurt is/Tell me exactly/And where is the pain?’ – and concludes ‘I’ve made my decision to die like a king/Like Elvis on some godforsaken toilet’.
As a comeback album, No Thyself is top-of-the-range. As an introduction to Magazine it may make your brains explode. And as an actual record made and released in 2011, it repays your attention every time.