Highlights: Do The Meaning, Hello Mister Curtis (With Apologies), Of Course Howard (1979), The Burden Of A Song
Fortunately, with No Thyself, Magazine’s first album in 3 (!) decades, Howard Devoto is back to his peculiar, inventive best. It’s still Kafka after all these years. I wouldn’t say the album is quite on par with the band’s classic debut from 1978 (Real Life - one of my favourite albums ever), but it is certainly better than Magic, Murder, And The Weather.
Adventurous arrangements, off-kilter melodies, unlikely hooks, pretentious lyrics, paranoid atmosphere and Devoto’s edgy vocals (he sounds like a neurotic version of Bryan Ferry) make No Thyself everything a Magazine fan could ever wish. Speaking of the lyrics, you’ve got to admit: it’s not too often that you encounter lyrics as disturbing as the ones you hear in the funky single “Hello Mister Curtis” (‘Hello Mr Curtis, hello Mr Cobain; you are so much braver than me; so do it again, so do it again, so do it again…’. Huh?..). I guess there are parts here one could consider catchy (i.e. the chorus of “The Burden Of A Song”), but overall it’s way too artsy and atmospheric to be bothered about something as earthy and obvious as that. Still, Devoto has always known how to make artsiness appealing (his specialty): there is a seemingly endless supply of hooks that are as creative as they are bizarre.
Take a song like “Of Course Howard”. Explaining its appeal would be pointless and would likely cause a bad headache, but this might be the biggest thing about No Thyself (and, indeed, Magazine): it gives you sensations you won’t get anywhere else. Dark, claustrophobic – yes, but, much like a Kafka book, incredibly powerful and oddly cathartic.