Just over a week ago, I didn’t even know there was going to be a new Magazine LP, yet here I am writing about it.
Magazine, of course, reformed to play their first shows since the early 80s a couple of years back. And they faced the same dilemma that others do when they reform. How do you make yourself relevant today?
Without any new material the shows are nothing more than an exercise in nostalgia but then again does anyone seriously want, say, the Pixies to record new material and risk tarnishing the legend?
If anything the dilemma is more acute for Magazine, who haven’t released an LP in 30 years. It’s very much a different era today. The trick is to somehow retain a connection to the earlier work yet move things forward at the same time.
Yet frankly my expectations weren’t that high as nothing Devoto has done since the first two (or three) Magazine LPs comes close to the majesty of these records. So how does ‘No Thyself’ measure up?
For better or for worse, there’s been no real attempt to update the sound to anything approaching the 21st century. ‘No Thyself’ doesn’t sound dramatically different to ‘Magic, Murder and the Weather’, ‘Jerky Version of the Dream’ or even Luxuria.
Taking that route is undoubtedly the safer option but it’s one that will likely appeal only to the previous fanbase and the odd 80s rock tourist. So is the record little more than an exercise in pastiche?
Some metallic guitar as an intro to opening track ‘Do The Meaning’ suggests not. It’s a promising start with some trademark Dave Formula piano to remind you who this band is.
Unfortunately the second track, ‘Other Thematic Material’ goes the other way with some flanged Adamson trademark bass (even though Barry Adamson has departed the fold) and a synth riff which seems only a couple of notes away from aping ‘Definitive Gaze’. It’s almost Magazine by numbers but fortunately it’s a rare glitch although the bonus track on the 11 track pre-order version, ‘Blisterpack Blues‘, captures that ‘Correct Use of Soap’ ambience just a little too perfectly.
Final track ‘The Burden of A Song’ also cops a similar drum intro to the original ‘The Light Pours Out of Me’ but this seems more like a knowing nod to the band’s past.
Whilst ‘No Thyself’ is no ‘Real Life’ (or even ‘The Correct Use of Soap’), it’s definitely got something going for it. Central to that is Noko, whose guitar provides many of the best moments on the record particularly when the LP rocks out on the likes of ‘Holy Dotage’ and the afore-mentioned ‘The Burden of A Song’.
However it’s a record that, understandably struggles to reach the band’s previous heights. But one of the most frustrating things about the record is that a lot of the songs have promising elements but that promise isn’t delivered on all too often.
So ‘Physics’ may be the prettiest thing ever released under the Magazine name but that’s about it, whilst ‘The Worst of Progress …’ kicks off with some eerie piano (reminiscent of nothing other than Moffat and Wells) but then somewhat loses its way in the second half of the song.
In the final evaluation, there’s too much filler for ‘No Thyself’ to enhance the Magazine legend. Certainly it is considerably better than it might have been but in the Devoto canon it’s definitely closer to ‘Jerky Versions’ rather than ‘Secondhand Daylight.’
The LP is officially released on 24th October but you can still get the 11 track pre-order version here.