Thursday, 11 April 2013

Top 102 Albums⁺ No 24 - The Correct Use of Soap

Top 102 Albums⁺ No 24
The Correct Use of Soap - Magazine

"I am angry I am ill and I'm as ugly as sin
my irritability keeps me alive and kicking
I know the meaning of life, it doesn't help me a bit
I know beauty and I know a good thing when I see it"

This album was in danger of being little more than a single to me, so often did I drop the needle into the grove just before Song from Under the Floorboards. Channeling Kafka's Metamorphosis it is a declaration of pride in insectitude. The intro is peerless with the rumble of Barry Adamson's bass and John McGeogh's ringing guitar. And then we get Devoto's cold, borderline sneer of a voice and Dave Formula's otherworldly keyboards and lyrics that bite as deeply as an apple into a giant housefly.

When I finally relented and played the whole of Side 2 I found it almost bewilderingly good. Opener I Want to Burn Again starts out cold and distant, like the soundtrack to a slow espionage thriller set in the wastes of Siberia but reaches back with an intensity of desire to rekindle the fires of love. Devoto has an uncanny sense of timing always seems able to wring drama and excitement out of every line.
"I've known the eeriest wounds
the soul's long quarantine
when no rewards remain
no one and nothing comes clean
I've been blown about for years
on my way to you"

Then we move on to a cover of the Sly & the Family Stone track Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) where Devoto picks up on the paranoia and the band slow the funk to a crawl, without losing it. Barry Adamson's bass in particular is a standout.

One of DeVoto's techniques is to concentrate much of the attention onto one line or phrase and almost hang the rest of the song from that. This is very much the case in Sweetheart Contract ("I received an education") and Stuck ("love you out of weakness").

I eventually got around to listening to Side 1 and although it remains behind Side 2 in my affections it would be a great first side on most albums, particularly opener Because You're Frightened ("Look what fear's done to my body")  and closer Philadelphia ("Maybe it's right to be nervous now").

But then we're back to  I Want To Burn Again and Side 2 of this album is one hell of a firestarter.


  1. I always remember John McGeogh's brilliant dexterity shone brightly amongst the ten thumbed company Magazine's music was in.
    I didn't study the muse that hard; will revisit.
    Thanks for reminding me Seamus.

    1. McGeogh was great but I actually think it's Barry Adamson (future Bad Seed and soundtrack composer) who really shines on this. They were a band without a weak link though and made a beautiful noise.

  2. Does not grab me on first listen like Shot by Both Sides does but I will persevere. I have a compilation on vinyl called After the Fact with reliably pretentious liner notes by Paul Morley. Checking it out online I see it's the U.S. version with a load of B-sides which is completely different to the album oriented UK version. It contains a cover of I love you, you big dummy by Captain Beefheart produced by Tony Wilson!