Secondhand Daylight, the second Magazine album, sounds like it must have been made in the dead of winter. You can imagine the steam coming out of Howard Devoto's mouth as he projects lines like "I was cold at an equally cold place," "The voyeur will realize this is not a sight for his sore eyes," "It just came to pieces in our hands," and "Today I bumped into you again, I have no idea what you want." You can picture Dave Formula swiping frost off his keys and Barry Adamson blowing on his hands during the intro to "Feed the Enemy," as guitarist John McGeoch and drummer John Doyle zip their parkas. From start to finish, this is a showcase for Formula's chilling but expressive keyboard work. Given more freedom to stretch out and even dominate on occasion, Formula seems to release as many demons as Devoto, whether it is through low-end synthesizer drones or violent piano vamps. Detached tales of relationships damaged beyond repair fill the album, and the band isn't nearly as bouncy as it is on Real Life or The Correct Use of Soap -- it's almost as if they were instructed to play with as little physical motion as possible. The drums in particular sound brittle and on the brink of piercing the ears. Despite the sub-zero climate, the lack of dance numbers, and the shortage of snappy melodies, the album isn't entirely impenetrable. It lacks the immediate impact of Real Life and The Correct Use of Soap, but it deserves just as much recognition for its compellingly sustained petulance. Even if you can't get into it, you have to at least marvel at "Permafrost." The album's finale, it's an elegant five-minute sneer, and as far as late-'70s yearbook scribbles are concerned, "As the day stops dead, at the place where we're lost, I will drug you and f*ck you on the permafrost" is less innocuous than "All we are is dust in the wind." [The expanded and remastered edition, released in 2007, adds four bonus tracks: "Give Me Everything," a cover of Captain Beefheart's "I Love You, You Big Dummy," the single version of "Rhythm of Cruelty," and "TV Baby."]
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Secondhand Daylight is Magazine's finest album. The Correct Use of Soap is more consistent, but nothing else sounds like this. It's dark, mind you. Yet it's also cathartic. The music crackles with urgency and some of the thickest, most brilliant bass playing on record. The guitars are sensational also, but it's Dave Formula's astonishing keyboard prowess that takes the prize. Surprisingly criticised by some for overwhelming the other musicians in the group, Formula's contributions make Secondhand Daylight the masterpiece that it is, though the work of Johns Doyle & McGeoch and Barry Adamson is really spectacular. And then there's singer Howard Devoto, who performs brilliantly. Recorded at the height of post-punk, there's a surprising embracing of near prog-rock influences, especially Pink Floyd and Yes' more intense moments, and proof that while punk was necessary in dispatching the complacency and bloated weight of the music scene of the early to mid seventies, that doesn't mean that prog was without merit. Magazine seem aware of this, but this is no mere prog-rehash. The music here is far funkier, edgier, tighter and thrilling than most prog rock, and is perfect evidence of a band using influences and using them to explore new, fresh territory. And wow. This album sounds superb even today. The epic grandeur of 'Feed the Enemy' is something else entirely, a huge step forward from Magazine's debut, Real Life. And then there's 'Back to Nature', which blew my mind the first time I heard it. The depth charge of the chorus is one of the most jaw-dropping things ever commited to record, as is the surprising and sudden U-turn into twisted funk on the magnificently weird 'Cut Out Shapes'. 'I Wanted Your Heart' and 'Talk to the Body' are classic Magazine songs, which twist and play tricks with the format of the pop song to create a sound that is at once thrillingly unusual yet quite poppy and commercial. 'Permafrost' is probably Formula's masterpiece, all shimmering, wintry synths and eerie atmospheres. He gets to enjoy the free rein of an instrumental too in the gorgeous 'The Thin Air', which just sends shivers down my spine. Secondhand Daylight is a total post-punk classic.
I first heard this album 25 years ago and bought the album again recently out of curiosity. It still has a tremendous sense of brooding atmospherics that can really only be summed up in the word "gothic". Although tracks like "Permafrost" and "Back to Nature" are outstanding (and rightly made it to the "Rays and Hail" compilation CD), the power of "The Thin Air" and "Cutout Shapes" ("We met in a psychiatric unit..." brilliant) should also not be ignored.<br> Basically, if you'd ever wondered what Bauhaus would have sounded like if they'd been good musicians - this is it. Formula's snarling keyboards, Adamson's fragile, elastic basslines, McGeoch's vibrant sax and guitar lines and Devoto's sharp vocals make a hell of a combination.