Magic, Murder, and the Weather (1981) **1/2
Who would've thought guitarist John McGeoch, who departed to join Siouxsie & the Banshees in 1980, would prove to be so crucial to the band? Or perhaps the band as a whole were just exhausted. The good news: it's not horrible, or particularly embarassing. The bad news: it's not very good, and actually quite boring. Classic Magazine were overblown, pompous, pretentious, and overproduced; this music is low-key, underproduced, and seemingly determined to keep its hooks non-obvious. But at least Howard Devoto's lyrics are still pretentious as hell! The major problem seems to be the complete and total lack of any real energy or excitement; the songs come across as rehearsal demos, not merely in the underproduction, but in the spiritless band performances - as if they needed to run through these songs a few more times to fully jell as a tight unit. There's a new guitarist on board, but I'm not even going to bother looking up his name; the music is dominated by Dave Formula's brittle keyboards with Barry Adamson's chunkily crooked basslines burbling like a porpoise a few centimeters from the surface. That all said, it's not truly a bad or wretched album, simply a very, very boring one: you can tell that some of the songs would've had potential with better presentation or least a smidgen of some goddamn energy. On second thought, McGeoch's departure was a symptom not the underlying malady: the band are clearly going through the motions here, and Devoto's breaking up of the band immediately after this album's release was, in hindsight, one of the least shocking breakup announcements ever. The lead-off track (and single), "About the Weather," stands out as the brightest and most compellingly performed tune here, even if in comparison to earlier Magazine singles it's a muted, low-key, non-obviously hooky affair - but it's good! After it grows on you, that is. I wish I could say as much for the other tracks, but while it is true that the album does eventually grow on you after a while as its cold, muted hooks slowly reveal themselves, even after all that effort there's precious little to compel the listener to return to them, not after the second honest-to-goodness-actually-good track, "So Lucky". OK, "The Honeymoon Killers," and "Suburban Rhonda," have their moments, as does "Come Alive," - "Pepsi Cola brings your ancestors back from the grave," is a clever way to write a chorus. It's based on a Chinese mistranslation, I surmise.