Odilon Redon and Magazine


Shot By Both Sides (1978). Design by Malcolm Garrett. Art: La Chimere regarda avec effroi toutes choses (1886) by Odilon Redon.

The first two albums by British post-punk band Magazine have been soundtracking the inner landscape here for the past couple of weeks. Looking at some of their cover art on Discogs reminded me that two of their early singles came dressed with drawings by Symbolist artist Odilon Redon (1840–1916) so these covers may well have been the first place I saw any of Redon’s work at all. This was an unusual choice at the time which makes it typical of a group that stood slightly apart from much of the music around them, often being regarded as too proficient and too clever. (Pop music and politics are the only places where incompetence and stupidity are virtues.)


Give Me Everything (1978). Design by Malcolm Garrett? Art:The Cactus Man (1881) by Odilon Redon.

Magazine’s golden era runs from 1978 to 1980 and for me their music and that of fellow Mancunians Joy Division remains inextricably connected to memories of Manchester in the late 1970s, a place I visited sporadically before moving here in 1982. The city then was a lot more grimy and run-down, filled with the disused mills and warehouses of the collapsed cotton industry, blighted by the failed architecture of the 1960s and polluted by endless convoys of orange buses. This photo from 1978 fixes the mephitic ambience, as does some of M. John Harrison‘s fiction from the period, notably his short story Egnaro. Unlike Joy Divison, Magazine haven’t been burdened with an increasingly inflated reputation which makes revisiting their works all the more enjoyable. They pull you back to those gloomy times then take you off elsewhere, into the cajoling and neurotic imagination of that Nosferatu-in-a-leather-jacket, Howard Devoto.


No Thyself (2009). Designer unknown. Art: Le polype difforme flottait sur les rivages, sorte de cyclope souriant et hideux, Les Origines (1883) by Odilon Redon.

The band reformed in 2009 although I’m not convinced the current incarnation is for me, I’m generally sceptical of such moves and the absence of ace guitarist John McGeogh (who died in 2004) and bassist Barry Adamson means it won’t be the same. No Thyself did refer back to their origins, however, literally so in the title of the Odilon Redon picture on the cover, while the Chimera from the first single turned up on a recent tour poster. Howard Devoto talked late last year to The Quietus about the recent album.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Odilon Redon lithographs
The eyes of Odilon Redon