High Slang/Sergeant Buzfuz (Blang)
As well as promoting the long-running anti-folk night “Blang” at
Their 2006 album “The Jewelled Carriageway” included Part One of the ongoing opus “Here Come The Popes”. Amongst “High Slang”’s 14 tracks are Parts Two, Three and Four – all featuring the perplexing concept of broadcasting the history of the papacy as accessibly as humanly possible – combining a keen historical interest with a pronounced sneer at the reverence the Catholic Church demands, detailing various scandalous accounts as evidence. The pick of the bunch opens Part Four:-
“Anacletus II liked to rape nuns – his sister was the mother of some of his sons”.
The standout track is “Kay Malone”, a fictional (?) tale of an old friend’s bitter tirade against a successful TV actress, crammed with delicious outpourings of jealousy and rage such as:-
“The caveman with you he is greased – He walks like man and talks like beast – When does his brother get released?”
Musically the band veers from the annoyingly catchy pop on the deceptively breezy “God To Holloway” (blessed with a supremely desolate lyric of routine N7 life) to the ethereal on the uncharacteristically lyrically economic “Kisses From The Sickbed”. Kate Arnold’s dulcimer is especially inspiring on the intro to “Names For Girls”.
The album’s standards slip with the filler track “Go Hoot, Owl Lady” and the forced quick-to-date topical humour of “In The Back Of My Cab”, but for the most part, “High Slang” is a welcome tonic for those of us jaded souls who thought they had heard everything.
Lee McFadden 9/02/09
Touch And Go – Anthology - 02.78-06.81/MAGAZINE (EMI)
When the news broke last summer of Magazine’s reunion the general reaction was one of stunned disbelief. Even in a climate where bands are reuniting every other day to subsidise their pension, this was an announcement which came completely out of the blue.
To commemorate – no, let’s be honest, cash in – on the more than welcome return to the stage of the reclusive culture colossus that is Howard Devoto, EMI have issued this double CD thirty track compilation representing all four Magazine studio albums; the near perfect “Real Life”, the classics “Secondhand Daylight” and “The Correct Use Of Soap”, plus the decidedly average final release, “Magic, Murder and the Weather”.
“Touch And Go” is arranged chronologically and opens with the seminal “Shot By Both Sides”. This track has attained legendary status despite (or because?) Devoto almost singlehandedly deprived it of a high chart placing by standing stock still during their only Top of the Pops appearance, and on current listening it is difficult to reconcile that this was recorded back in 1978. “Definitive Gaze”, “My Tulpa” and “The Light Pours Out Of Me” confirm the bewildering timelessness of their debut album. The band’s ability and confidence are so apparent at this point they even have the audacity to unleash an irony-free cover of “Goldfinger”.
“Back To Nature” is simply majestic, the chorus of “Permafrost” is still one of the most chilling written in rock, and their interpretation of Captain Beefheart’s “I Love You, You Big Dummy” replicates the unbridled lunacy of the original.
CD Two begins with “A Song From Under The Floorboards”. (Trivia note: on early EMI release schedules this compilation was originally titled “Songs From Under The Floorboards”). Morrissey recognised the importance of this song by recording a cover version in 2006, and the peerless opening line, “I am angry, I am ill, and I’m as ugly as sin” probably was an early template for his entire lyrical oeuvre, and is now available on a Magazine T-Shirt near you. Without doubt - one of the most wonderful songs ever written.
The compilation continues with the questionable cover of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Agin)” before regaining focus with the austere “Sweetheart Contract”. However, the peculiar choice of the non-album tracks “Twenty Years Ago” and “The Book” over undeniable pearls such as “Motorcade” and “The Great Beautician InThe Sky” will probably be explained away as typically perverse moves.
The “Magic, Murder and the Weather” tracks that complete “Touch And Go” do nothing to dispel the opinion that this was one excursion too many for the band, save for the B-Side “The Operative” – an overlooked gem that closes the album on an exquisite high.
All compilations lead to arguments about which tracks should or should not be included, but whilst this is a pristine introduction to the music of Magazine, the term “Album Sampler” would have been more honest – as all four albums with bonus tracks were released by EMI as recently as 2007 and are still in print. All thirty contributions on “Touch and Go” can be found on these CDs.
It does, however, illustrate how essential Magazine were to the world of post-punk, and how valued their astonishing return will prove to be.
Lee McFadden 10/02/09