Over the last couple of years, Magazine’s debut Real Life has gradually crept from the fringes of my consciousness to become one of my favourite albums. I’ve owned it for three or four years (or maybe even longer) but other than ever-brilliant Shot By Both Sides, early listens failed to pierce my heart, mind or soul. I’d been aware of the band for long enough, Howard Devoto’s wry post-modern cameo in my teenage favourite 24 Hour Party People, a vague notion of the formation and transformation of the Buzzcocks and Definitive Gaze, as included on Rough Trade Shops’ Post-Punk Volume One compilation – a compilation that irreparably blew my impressionable young mind into a million crystalline shards. Yet still this album took its time - I listen to it frequently now and it baffles me as to why that was the case.
Real Life is clearly indebted to David Bowie’s Low (another favourite album) and the early solo work of Brian Eno, infused with a dark luxuriance while retaining the spit and spunk of the British punk movement that Devoto played a major part in mobilising. It’s smart - a little too smart for some, perhaps - and deviant, dynamic yet decadent. Most decadent of all (and that word is used in the most complimentary way possible), is the album closer, Parade. That keyboardist Dave Formula had spent time in cabaret bands makes perfect sense - there’s more than a hint of the Weimar Republic about it. It snarls, it seduces. Real Life’s seduction might’ve worked slowly on me, but it’s very real now.
This may of course be our most mainstream choice for Songs They Never Play on the Radio so far – it might even have been played on the radio from time to time, but not very often. If you want a more truly obscure selection from Magazine, then look no further than the B-side to their Touch & Go single, a disc that failed to bother the charts immediately prior to the release of Real Life. The song in question is a cover of Goldfinger - yes, the Bond theme - and is Parade’s ever-so-slightly camp yet brooding twin.
Andrew R. Hill