Music

Magazine: No Thyself

Their albums always stop and go, hurry and dawdle, and true to this erratic form, after 30 years, this one follows suit.


Magazine

No Thyself

Label: Wire Sound
US Release Date: 2011-11-22
UK Release Date: 2011-10-24
Amazon
iTunes

The titular pun, allusive and mocking, literate and "classic" in at least a double sense, typifies this pioneering post-punk band's approach. Howard Devoto's adenoidal delivery, his poetic or satirical lyrics, and his direction of a band bent on keyboard-guitar dominated aggravation make their fifth album (the first in nearly three decades since their heyday), as consistent as ever. Whether this wins them new fans as much as woos old ones remains uncertain. Magazine's a group committed to an uncompromising attitude transmitted through an arch form of dense New Wave, while backing ex-Buzzcocks founder Devoto's willfully theatrical, petulant, or defiant poses.

"Do the Meaning" begins with a hint of Public Image Ltd's guitar swirl, its riff connecting with a keyboard-driven sound reminiscent of their standard style. A chunkier, stuttering guitar characterized the innovations of late original guitarist John McGeoch; his successor Noko -- who paired with a solo Devoto in Luxuria -- remains faithful to this direction. This continues on the next track, appropriately named "Other Thematic Material". However, Devoto's preference for a sparer, theatrical mood often slowed the pace of Magazine's albums. Here, "The Worst of Progress" follows this form. Discordant tones fill many songs, even if "Hello Mister Curtis (With Apologies)" integrates piano chords that hint at George Benson's version of "On Broadway" of all tunes (at least to these ears).

Despite Devoto's mannered articulation and phrasing, "Physics" manages to be nearly a ballad by comparison with most of this album. "Religion, it wasn't meant for everyone" becomes the refrain, and no lyric sheet's needed to make that message out (I didn't receive one with my download). "Happening in English" fits into the band's typical early '80s style, with some nods to a more tribal percussion from that era's John Doyle, who returns on drums. Dave Formula, their loyal keyboardist, contributes the most to keeping this reunion record close to its predecessors. He joins with Noko's lively guitar and new recruit Jon "Stan" White on bass (although the talents of original member Barry Adamson are missed) for "Holy Dotage", which is the album's punchiest song.

The noir shuffle of "Of Course Howard (1979)" evidently refers to some event back then, mixing a nearly spoken-word alteration of Devoto's vocal registers into a menacing entry. Yet, as with other such Magazine tracks throughout the band's career, this plods along and drags down the album's trajectory. Their albums always stop and go, hurry and dawdle, and true to this erratic form, after 30 years, this one follows suit.

By its title, "Final Analysis Waltz" may anticipate this judgment. Despite a jerky guitar with lilting piano and bass interplay that gave many of the band's songs their distinctive sonic stamp, this fails to keep a listener's interest for almost five minutes. "The Burden of a Song" again appears well-chosen as a name, for this fights against the ennui incorporated into its title by a welcome brush with a snappier melody, if in shards.

Tired and battered, the breakdown of "Blisterpack Blues" reminds me of the band's nearly unrecognizable, crawling, collapsing cover version of Sly Stone's "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)"; it drags down the album to its close. The willful direction-as-misdirection of this solid record (if unspectacular by earlier standards of such a creative band) typifies their refusal to conform to expectations. Unless they are those of any listener fond of this Manchester-based quintet, who from their first single, "Shot by Both Sides" in 1978, never fit into any mold except the ones they broke and melted and remade.

6


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.

Books

John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.

Music

Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.

Music

Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Books

Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.

Music

Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.

Film

Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.

Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.