After the Fact (1982) ***
It's difficult to see exactly who this record is intended for. The UK version, which is distinguishable with a green cover, is a straightforward greatest hits career overview. This US version with the red cover is radically different, substituting many of the hits with B-side obscurities. Thus, the American version operates as a confused mish-mash that will satisfy neither the neophyte nor the hardcore fan. The inclusion of sub-par material in the form of B-sides make it a rocky listen and hardly an ideal introduction to the band. And hardcore fans looking for a round-up of obscurities will frustratingly have to deal with the overlap of material culled from albums that they already have. Actually, it's not so bad: of these 13 tracks, four hail from Magazine's regular studio albums: two from Album #2, and one each from Albums #3 & #4. Nothing from the debut, you ask? Well, yes, there is "Shot By Both Sides," but it's presented here in its original single version form, which is radically different from the LP version - instead of drenching the main hook in an engulfing sea of synths, it's the non-New Wave hardcore punky version with screaming guitars! Both the keybs/guitars versions are awesomely great, so flip a coin to decide which one you prefer. Then after that opener you get as a bonus its followup, "Touch and Go," another worthily punky/hooky A-side that's almost as catchily strong. From therein out, the B-side material wildly swings from godawful to goodness, with the atonal sax-honking "TV Baby," possibly the worst track Devoto has ever set his name to. Or is that the concluding track on this disc, the pointless spoken word piece, "The Book"? You get a pair of kitchsy covers, "Goldfinger," courtesy Jimmy Bond, and "I Love You, You Big Dummy," courtesy Cap'n Beefy. Both sorta suck, with the latter particularly grating (duh-err, it's Beefheart, it's supposed to be unlistenably abrasive). There's another punk era raver, "My Mind Ain't So Open," that takes issues with those so liberal-minded their brains fall out. To round things out, there are two quite good B-sides in the traditionally epic Magazine style, "Give Me Everything," (essential) and "Upside Down" (mellower and not quite so essential) that would've fit in fine as album tracks on any of their first three LPs.
In short, you certainly don't need this disc, period: as a career overview you'd be better off picking up Rays & Hail, and as a collection of rarities it's been superseded by Scree. But this was their first career overview disc released, and is still widely circulating. Besides, I don't have either of those other two discs.