Wednesday, November 09, 2011
Magazine / In Fear Of Olive @ HMV Institute, Tuesday 8th November
One of the original, and hugely influential, post-punk bands Magazine split up in 1981 after an all too brief four year career only to return nearly three decades later. Now that’s a decent break up eh? That’s how you do it Stone Roses...15 years...pah...that’s barely an intermission. During their initial incarnation Magazine cemented their place in post-punk history with the truly seminal single Shot By Both Sides and a handful of critically acclaimed left field albums before vocalist and ex Buzzcock Howard Devoto buggered off to pursue a solo career then form another band, Luxuria in 1988. There, that’s got to be worth a few points at a pop pub quiz one day eh? Here endeth the lesson.
Before Magazine though openers In Fear Of Olive warmed up the crowd nicely with some fine blues rock, Americana and a little bit of good ol' country twang. Not sure of the name of the first track they played but it was a belter, with an extended blues jam threatening to go on all night. I wouldn’t have minded to be honest, I do love a good jam. Elsewhere they made the best use of the fact that all four band members can more than carry a tune with some lush four part harmonies. A spirited cover of Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues won over some of the aging punks in the audience and the set ended with the odd cries of “more”, a rarity for any opening act eh?
With the room stuffed to the rafters with men of a certain age, many of whom had clearly waited the odd decade or three to see the band, Magazine received a bit of a hero’s welcome. The love was handsomely returned with opening number, Definitive Gaze, spiky cut throat guitars, wibbly synths and surprisingly complex rhythms and shifts in timing providing the perfect soundtrack for Devoto to prowl the stage slowly revealing placards bearing the legends “Let’s fly away to the world” and “You do the meaning”. It’s safe to say that Devoto’s not got the most conventionally tuneful voice in the world (although it seems a hell of a lot stronger now than it was back in the day), but then again neither have many of the more interesting artists around. What he lacks in the old ‘do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-si-do’ talent he more than makes up for in effort and charisma though, illustrating the songs expressively with his hands and constantly wandering the stage. He looks a little like Dr Evil from Austin Powers these days, much more preferable to the balding monk look he sported in the late 70’s. “Welcome to Magazine version 6.0” he proclaimed, drawing the number 6.0 in the air just in case we hadn’t got the message. I half expected him to follow it up with by putting his little finger in his mouth and demanding $100billion or he’d destroy the earth. Instead what followed was a masterclass in post-punk, reminding the faithful of just why this band had meant so much to them 30 years ago and introducing a few newcomers (to be honest most of the crowd seemed to belong to the former category though) to a dozen or so musical gems. Most of the tracks were plucked from the original era albums but tonight wasn’t just a history lesson. Yep, they’ve recorded a new album too, No Thyself. “We’ve been around a long time as a band so it was easy this time...I’M LYING!” explained Howard before launching into one of the newbies Always Happening In English, which actually sat pretty comfortably next to its older brothers and sisters. It’s the classics that really got the juices flowing though. A Song From Under The Floorboards seemed even more potent tonight, with keyboardist Dave Formula bashing away dementedly and Devoto spitting the self hating/self inflating lyrics like poison from a dart. Philadelphia combined lush basslines (you can see where Japan got a lot of their sound from) with more gloriously demented keyboard stabbing from Mr F and a post-punk-funk cover of Sly’s Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again), first heard on the classic The Correct Use of Soap, neatly fused the funkiness of the original with Magazine’s own unique sound. Genius. Predictably the encore saw the ‘big hit’ (astonishingly it seems that it only got to number 41 in the charts back in 1978...wtf?!)rolled out, a furious run through Shot By Both Sides whipping the aging punks up into something of a fury and even inspiring some mild pogoing. That’s a very dangerous thing when you get past 30...trust me. Covered by such luminaries and Morrissey and Radiohead it still sounds incredibly fresh today and, remarkably, throughout tonight's gig so did the band. Over 30 years on from their original heyday this is one Magazine subscription that’s well worth renewing.