on 3 September 2003
It came as some surprise to see Magazine performing "Shot By Both Sides" on "Top Of The Pops". First, because the record wasn't in the top forty; secondly, because it didn't fit in with the "Pops" uniform output of bland soul; thirdly, because I'd never heard either of the band or of the supposedly legendary Howard Devoto; fourthly, because it was utterly brilliant.
It came as a greater surprise to hear "Real Life" when my best friend invited me to his house to listen to it. I wasn't expecting a new version of "Shot By Both Sides" (and, to be honest, I still prefer the single version); neither was I expecting the synthesizer or the subtlety.
"Definitive Gaze" remains one of the great album-openers of rock history and served at the time as a strong warning that this band was not just a more intellectual version of the Buzzcocks. Barry Adamson's funky opening bars lead into a tutti crescendo that quickly makes way for Dave Formula's simple but brilliantly effective synth melody, which reappears at regular intervals throughout the song. Devoto enters - "Got this bird's-eye view and it's in my brain//Clarity has reared its ugly head again//So this is real life: you're telling me//And everything is where it ought to be" - and Magazine's memorable debut album is under way.
As "Definitive Gaze"'s closing echo fades, the superb "My Tulpa" confirms that this isn't a one-hit album. Adamson and Martin Jackson keep up the funk while John McGeoch's guitar makes its first major contribution, giving an taste of the great things he would achieve with Siouxsie & The Banshees.
"Shot By Both Sides" - still powerful but not as blistering as in its single incarnation - is followed by two fillers, "Recoil" and "Burst": the first fast & loud , the second a slow anthem that would have been a good track on an average album. On such a brilliant album as this, though, it fades into anonymity.
Then follows what was the most magnificent side-two of a vinyl album in the late seventies. "Motorcade", "Great Beautician In The Sky" and "The Light Pours Out Of Me" are all top-class songs, with "Parade" being a gentle come-down to soften the blow of the end of the album. "Motorcade", one of the better Kennedy-assassination songs (along with Hawkwind's bizarre "Some People Never Die") alternates hard and soft passages very effectively in the style of Van der Graaf Generator's magnificent "Scorched Earth", following a similar plan. "Great Beautician In The Sky" has a similar two-lines structure, a staccato, Kurt-Weillian theme alternating with a reprise of the "My Tulpa" theme.
The album's highlight is "The Light Pours Out Of Me". Jackson provides a solid, compex drum-beat and Adamson's bass pulses as McGeoch spits out short guitar phrases, between which Devoto intones first-person schizophrenic symptoms in a cold monotone. A mood of robotic menace runs through the song, right up to its roaring close.
As a contrast to the Buzzcocks, this album could not have been more effective. Magazine would turn up the subtlety through "Secondhand Daylight", "The Correct Use Of Soap" and "Magic, Murder & The Weather" but never again captured the inspiration of "Real Life".
on 8 March 2007
This record broke conventions when it came out. It was about not being restricted by usual boundaries of punk, post punk or new wave. Devoto (singer & ex-member of the buzzcocks) and John Mc Geoch (brilliant guitarist who later worked with Siouxsie & the banshees ) both created an original music sound. And still today, the cocktail works very well : shimmering guitars, inventive basses lines, strong drumbeats, all this linked with atmospheric keyboards.
From "Definitive Gaze", the tone is given. The basses offer a heavenly introduction and then the groove really begins and one is under the spell. All the other songs are strong and I guess it's difficult to not succumb to the luminous "the light pours out of me".
On this record, I particularly love the groovy riffs of the guitarist John Mc Geoch which shows here for the first time a part of all the good things he's gonna create after with Siouxsie & the Banshees (on the albums "Kaleidoscope", "Juju", and "A kiss in the dreamhouse").
Howard Devoto showed with the buzzcocks that he was able to compose catchy short pop songs. With Magazine, he succeeded to become a remarkable arranger, able to create unique sounds.
This album is really a must.
on 7 November 2011
The official review from Amazon reads: "Real Life--Magazine's debut album--has not weathered the passing of the years all that well. By far the best thing on it is the anthemic single "Shot By Both Sides", and it is of somewhat dubious parentage, credited to Devoto/Shelley. The rest of the album--with the arguable exception of "The Light Pours Out Of Me"--bears the unmistakable awkwardness that comes of being created by people whose ambitions, at this early stage, are beyond the grasp of their abilities"
You know those moments when someone says something that is so far removed from your perception of realtity that you are completely bemused? Just experiencing one now. This album sounds as brilliant to me now as it ever did.
Following the key 'Spiral Scratch' e.p. and the material subsequently released as 'Time's Up', Howard Devoto decided to jump ship and left Buzzcocks just at the point when they might have made it a la the Sex Pistols. The retirement didn't last long, Devoto returning with a new outfit called Magazine, whose initial line-up included Devoto (vocals), Barry Adamson (bass), the late/great John McGeoch (guitar), Bob Dickinson (piano/keyboards) and Martin Jackson (drums). Jackson would later be replaced by John Doyle, while Dave Formula would replace Dickinson and give Magazine another key factor alongside Adamson's bassplaying, McGeoch's guitars, and Devoto's Devotoness.
'Real Life' was released in 1978, like the first PIL album and 'The Scream' by Siouxsie & the Banshees, it was an early "post-punk" release - coming out before anything by The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen or Joy Division. Magazine weren't exactly punk, though the bonus tracks include the single 'Touch and Go' and b-side 'My Mind Ain't So Open', which are closer to (The) Buzzcocks. Magazine's cover of Beefheart's 'I Love You Big Dummy' is pure punk rock too, a song they performed in the Buzzcocks and became the flipside to 'Give Me Everything.' A word on the bonus tracks, er...huh? What was the thinking behind them, since they don't match the era completely and appear to have been spread out more - whilst their inclusion advances on the previous CD versions, their presence on the 'Scree'-compilation and the 'Maybe It's Right to Be Nervous Now' box-set may well elicit the response, "...but I've already got these...twice!!" Maybe it's all in the remastering then...
'Real Life' is one of the great albums of this era and a shockingly good debut - though I am one of the few who think that 'Secondhand Daylight' is the masterpiece, with 'Real Life' and 'The Correct Use of Soap' almost as good (you're on your own with 'Magic, Murder & the Weather' and the Devoto-Formula penned 'Jerky Versions of the Dream'). 'Definitive Gaze' is a great opener, spelling out the title track in the statement "So this is real life?" - Adamson's bass is fluid and funky, while Formula's keyboards offer a cinematic feel. An opener as great as it gets. 'My Tulpa' is another favourite, crashing into life with manic keyboards and manic Devoto at the centre - like 'Definitive Gaze' its advanced by the use of keyboards and space, the next step on from Bowie's Berlin-era.
The classic single 'Shot By Both Sides' is up next, a song that fights PIL's 'Public Image' for the best riff of the post punk era - though the riff appears to be Pete Shelley's, hence the credit and the riff recurring on the Buzzcock's catchy 'Lipstick.' Devoto's lyrics are suitably literary and paranoid, the title emanating from a theoretical argument with a girlfriend that ended with her telling him, "You'd be shot by both sides." The alternate version has never quite worked for me against the original I've always known - the song would later be covered by Mansun (who worked with Devoto in the late 90s) and Radiohead - who played it live alongside Can's 'Thief' during their 'Kid A/Amnesiac'-tour.
The rest of the album is as fantastic, from 'Burst' with its primal drumming (I might prefer the Peel Session version), to the artier 'Great Beautician in the Sky' (pointing towards the next album), and the closing 'Parade.' The latter is a sublime, if downbeat, song, though I have to declare I was exposed to the version from 'Play' first, since that was put on the 'Rays & Hail' compilation I first heard Magazine on - so I prefer that take.
The two songs that I always come back to, like 'Definitive Gaze', 'My Tulpa' and 'Shot By Both Sides', are 'The Light Pours Out of Me' and 'Motorcade.' 'The Light...' was one of the singles from the album, having that drumbeat from Sly & the Family Stone's 'Dance to the Music' alongside a glam-rock edge identified by Julian Cope in his excellent memoir 'Head On/Repossessed.' Interesting that the Sly-drumbeat would recur on another Manchester band's material a decade later, 'Dance to the Music's beat apparent on 'I am the Resurrection' by The Stone Roses, I wonder if they got that from Magazine? (Other examples of it include the dire 'Rocks' by Primal Scream and the rather lovely 'Flame' by Sebadoh). 'The Light Pours Out of Me' still sounds like the future to me, just don't listen to the dodgy cover versions by Ministry and Peter Murphy! 'Motorcade' is even better, just under six-minutes long and showcasing the keyboard/structural elements that were written off as prog on their second album by some critics. Devoto's lyrics feel like Burroughs cutting-up Ballard and Bowie at the same time, the imagery is quite blank, Devoto becoming expert at saying everything and nothing in a suitably oblique way - 'Permafrost' the apex of that approach. I've always felt it has something to do with the assassination of JFK, though this might have been due to the fact I was reading Ballard's 'The Atrocity Exhbition' the first time I heard this song! "The man at the centre of the motorcade" might be JFK - who knows? The sections where the sonic manically speeds up has more in common with Can and Faust than punky peers, while the concluding part where Devoto intones, "The motorcade holds sway" drips with that wonderful vague meaning. Maybe the words just sound great. Maybe it's kind of catchy after the mood swings of this epic? Who knows...
'Real Life' sounds as great as ever, part of the soundtrack to that brilliant age in the late 1970s that saw such albums as '20 Jazz Funk Greats', 'Chairs Missing', 'Fear of Music', 'The Idiot', 'Low', 'Marquee Moon', 'The Modern Dance', 'Suicide', 'Systems of Romance', 'Unknown Pleasures', & 'Y' (...and so much more...) Great to have remastered, despite my uncertainty over the bonus-track sequence - a reminder of a great band - Magazine's greatness assured by 'Real Life' and their next two albums that are similarly joys of an obligatory nature.
This is Real Life-
After most rock music of the early 70's became tired and burnt out, groups like Magazine injected renewed energy and enthusiasm in rocks possibilities. Though punk was the antithesis of the virtuosity prevalent in most rock music that had gone before, Magazine had at its core a trio of formidable musicians in guitarist John McGeoch, bassist Barry Adamson and keyboardist Dave Formula. Of course the band were fronted by Howard Devoto, whose intellectual demeanour and literate lyrics set the band apart from the crowd!
Their first album was the hugely critically lauded "Real Life". Seen in some ways as the urban opposite of Roxy Music's glossy glamourisation that was "Country Life", Magazine went all out to excite. From the incendiary loaded "Shot By Both Sides" to the bass driven, tautly controlled "The Light Pours Out Of Me", the band style was already clearly developed and emphatically defined.
Some points about this re-issue, which is part of a complete remastering of all Magazine's albums. The remastering by Sean Magee of Abbey Road studios has made the original widescreen production by John Leckie , even more widescreen. Compared to the original CD issue this sounds much warmer and detailed, quite light and airy actually. The bonus tracks are singles with b-sides of the period and include their entertaining reworking of John Barry's theme to "Goldfinger". I have to say the CD booklet is a bit of a letdown. The printing quality is poor and there has been little effort to reproduce the layout of the original album. The essay, by Mojo journalist Kieron Tyler spread over 6 pages of the 8 page booklet is actually quite informative and detailed, though messily laid out and covers the period over which "Real Life" was recorded.
So on the whole this is a pretty good re-issue. The remastering is well done, good bonus tracks, the only let down being the packaging, done by EMI's own in-house design team, which could have done with a bit more thought put into the overall presentation. So 1 star off for that!
on 16 September 2000
"Real Life" was the first LP from Howard Devoto's new band after he left the Buzzcocks in 1977 (the Devoto/Shelly line-up only made a 4 track EP called "Spiral Scratch", recorded in one of the band members' loft on a 4-track tape recorder).
Devoto left after helping pen early outbursts like "Orgasm Addict" that made it onto the Buzzcocks' fine debut "Another Music in a Different Kitchen". Magazine went on to grander things... Less successful maybe, but more satisfying musically.
"Real Life", for me, marked the start of the post punk movement, it must have been about the 20th LP I had bought after The Damned, the Stranglers, The Clash, the Slits, Penetration, Elvis Costello, the Clash, the Buzzcocks and so on.. My collection was sounding pretty diverse at the time and I stuck to what I thought was "just punk" -- but Magazine was trying to push its music into new areas.
Back in 1979 this LP had all the energy of punk with tracks like "shot by both sides" ("New offences always in my nerves/they're taking my time by force/They all sound the same when they scream/they have to rewrite all the books again/as a matter of course") but there was much more to it than met the ears. These were not deliberately obscure lyrics, but they demanded dissection and understanding -- to a punk raised on lyrically simpler stuff, this was a whole new experience!
Magazine also differed from many bands at the time in that they had a [gasp] "syntheiser" and Dave Formula knew how to use it in a way that wasn't plodding or pompous
For me, Magazine's 10-year lifespan had a lot of downs and a few ups. Sweeping and rather grandiose at times, Real Life always had an intelligent edge to its lyrics that was every bit as sharp as the music...
on 25 January 2002
Magazine are formed by ex-Buzzcock Howard Devoto and contains future members of Visage, Ultravox, PIL, Siouxshe and the Banshees, Nick Cave's Bad Seeds as well as a current Lecturer in Music at North Lindsey College. It starts off with 'Definitive Gaze' which contains Punk guitar and Prog synth/keyboard and sets the tone for an amazing piece of work. The Roxy Music-esque 'My Tulpa' follows, leading up to their stunning
debut-single 'Shot by Both Sides'. The best track is 'Motorcade', an amazing fusion of a soaring guitar and top-notch keyboard work. Other hilights include the quirky 'Great Beautician in the Sky', the equally wierd ending track 'Parade' an the infectious 'The Light Pours out of Me'. If you want to know the origins of John Leckie's Production credentials, Radiohead's love of experementation, Mansun's very exsistance, the Manics' love of poetic punk, The Edge's echo laiden guitar sound and Joy Division's venture into a more electronic sound then look no further than this album.
on 21 July 2005
Well I'll never forget hearing this! I was well into punk & then this came along! freaked me out - what sort of music is this? anyway it grew & grew on me & my mates & what a top bunch of musicians this lot turned out to be! bazzers bass playing just got better & better & what a sound too!
pity johns gone - I always wanted to see the original Magazine get back together along with the original Ultravox!
on 2 March 2007
Let me be the first to reiterate that this is one of the great rock albums of all time. 'Rock' isn't actually a word that describes much of what I like, but nothing else really describes the sound of Real Life: brutal, fractured, diamond hard, from Martin Jackson's thunderous drums through to Devoto's caw of a voice. What sets it apart though, is that the sound is not an end in itself but a platform for some astounding melodies and, most importantly, a real sense of human frailty. Paranoia, anxiety and desperation are threads running through the album for sure, but if that was all this would just be a proto-Radiohead; 'The Light Shines out of Me' has a mighty defiance, however, and the fragile 'Parade' remains one of the most moving songs I've ever heard, though I'm damned if I could tell you why. Like Roxy Music's first, nothing seemed to precede Real Life, least of all the Buzzcocks, and very little seems to have climbed on its shoulders since.
Having said all that, I worry about this release. The original album was as close to perfect as you could imagine; can extra tracks do more than dilute it?
on 7 June 2004
This is one of the most inventive albums of all times. ongs such as "Definitive Gaze" and "Shot By Both Sides" both accept and visibly change what people define as punk music. This is what is known by critics as "post-punk". I don't think you can categorise this gret sonic mish-mash,as songslike "The Great Beautician In The Sky" incorporate a number of styles and roll them all together to create something truely extraordinary. Listen to "Parade" at exactly midnight whilst under mild inebriation, and suddenly it all becomes clear, youunderstand why we are here. I heard about this album due to people namechecking in music mags, but after hearing sum of Howard Devoto's work with shelleydevoto I thought it would be mediocre. But it changed my life. It can change yours too.