Saturday, June 6, 2009

M - Magazine - "Real Life"

One day in the fall of 1994 or so, Darek called to tell me that one of his co-workers was selling his record collection for $1 each, and would I be interested in going through it? On the one hand, I’m always a sucker for cheap records (at the time, I was going to every record convention advertised, and was frequenting Sound Exchange often – every now and then, they would have a 50% off used vinyl sale, and I would get there early with my highlighted record guides so as to make sure I was getting the most for my limited funds), but was concerned that it was going to be a bunch of junk in either quality or condition. By this time, CD’s had taken over, and vinyl was being phased out, so everyone was dumping their beat up collections – there was a lot of crap floating around. It seemed no one wanted their Springsteen or Aerosmith anymore. I sure didn’t.

Anyway, I told Darek I’d take a look, and we went over to Dave’s apartment. He had all of his records on shelves in the living room, and, after introductions, I sat on the floor and began looking. By the letter “G”, I must’ve already pulled out 20 or more records. This guy’s collection was outstanding: mostly modern music, including a lot of British imports that I knew would cost a fortune at Sound Exchange (the original issues of Joy Division’s “Still”, the Soft Boys “Underwater Moonlight”, the Au Pairs “Live in Berlin”, plus autographed albums by X, Jonathan Richman, & Laurie Anderson, to name a few). I simply could not believe my eyes. Apparently Dave worked at a radio station and gotten most of these records at work. I asked if he had tried to sell them at any of the local record stores; he said that none of them were interested. This, naturally, raised a red flag, and I began wondering if this was his collection at all – maybe he was mad at his roommate and was selling off HIS collection while he was out of town? All I knew was I was making out like a bandit. I ended up buying 89 records that day; I later went back with Darek and got 25 more. It was my greatest score EVER – my only regret was not buying the entire collection (I could’ve made the money back just selling Sound Exchange the records I didn’t want). What an awesome day!

Which brings me to Magazine. I’d only known the name and a little background (band formed by the ex-lead singer of the Buzzcocks), but, due to the extreme affordability, paid 6 dollars for their entire output to that point (including 3 autographed records). In the 13 years that I’ve owned these albums, I maybe listened to them once or twice each. Even though they’re thought of as pioneers in the post-punk field, I can’t seem to get into them. Their main differentiating feature is the thing I don’t like about them – the keyboards. Their sound is definitely keyboard-synth driven, but there seems something off about it. Dave Formula is a good player, but perhaps should’ve been playing in a different band. Howard Devoto, the singer, doesn’t have much of a singing voice, but had brilliantly perfected the sound of a true skeevy pervert – someone in a trench coat that stands outside one of those all night windowless video places, waiting for them to open, a gleam in his eyes and dribble on his lips. This is also not that attractive of a feature for a band. Or a person, some might say. The guitarist (later in the Banshees) & bassist (later in the Bad Seeds) are good, though; the drummer is not.

This album has “Shot by Both Sides”, which is the one Magazine song that is always chosen to be on compilations (it was a hit in England). It’s an okay song, but there are much better ones, like “The Light Pours Out of Me” (great Gary Glitter quote), “Definitive Gaze”, and “My Tulpa”. The rest of the album stays mostly in the “ehhhhhhh” territory: sometimes rising above (“Recoil”), or sinking below (“Burst”).

Verdict: there are 5 more Magazine records in my collection: maybe one of them will be better.

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