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This Weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Howard Devoto & Noko – Luxuria August 3, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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This is one of those albums one tends to accumulate along the way. I was loaned this by a friend and never gave it back. Though that said they didn’t want it back either. Their loss. My gain.

So straight from the early 1990s here’s guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Noko, who has worked with a wide array of bands, and here too is Howard Devoto, then fresh from Magazine, and before that famously the earliest incarnation of the Buzzcocks. Of Noko I know little enough, but on the evidence of this he’s no slouch. Of Devoto one almost knows too much, a sort of shadowy presence in punk and post-punk who was there at all the important points before ultimately giving up music entirely in the 1990s in order to become, IIRC, a photographic archivist. Yet his work with Magazine is indelibly stamped on post-punk, its melodramatic gestures somehow oddly contemporary at this remove. Luxuria released an earlier album which I’ve never heard, and I’d be interested in reports.

So what does it sound like? Well it’s interesting. A mix of a lot of genres, some more successful than others. You could say it sounds like an even more baroque Magazine, but with more synths. Which isn’t to say Magazine didn’t have synths… but… [by the way, I hadn’t listened to “The Light Pours Out of Me” in a couple of years. What a song. And that’s just the start with Magazine]. Or you could say it is a slightly danced up version of Magazine – listen to “Beastbox” which is very late 1980s in terms of beats, indeed given that this was released in 1990 those beats are effective albeit beginning to sound a little bit late to the party (though the keyboard washes are spot on – almost mid-period Shamen-like). Or a more guitar based Magazine, all of which are true on different tracks. There’s also more than a hint of goth about the place. But… only in the sense that much of post-post punk sounded like goth due to a process initially of sharing a genesis and thereafter of parallel evolution. Or you could say it sounds little enough like Magazine. Each of those statements would be correct to varying degrees.

There are some tracks that are perhaps more conventional, “Against the Past” with it’s propulsive structure is close enough to mainstream rock – Midnight Oil comes to mind. At least until he starts singing. “Animal in the Mirror” could almost be the Church. Until the singing. Steve Kilbey it ain’t. But then one listens to “I’ve Been Expecting You”… and the Bond theme inflections [and title] take us somewhere else entirely.

Then there are tracks like “Our Curious Leader”, or the title track [whose lyrics appear to channel JG Ballard, or perhaps more accurately another British SF author, Christopher Priest, in his later more surrealist phase]. They don’t need the singing to make them genuine oddities.

Anyone who was concerned that Devoto’s voice was/is mannered wasn’t going to come away from this convinced otherwise, and yes, sometimes it gets a bit too mannered. But, on the other hand, there’s something about it that is oddly compelling. If there is a fault it might be that at a number of points it tips over into a sort of faux-theatrical aesthetic (now there’s a surprise from the man who brought us Magazine), and yet, and yet. The hooks stay in the memory. I hadn’t listened to this for probably a decade before this week, had to dig out the CD and rip it to MP3, and it’s still an enjoyable listen.

I’m amused to see this termed a pop band on wiki. Anything but, in a way, though on the other hand, the brass, the strings, the harmonica [!], the beats, all, in other hands, might combine into something more predictable. But with Devoto, not so much. Or perhaps in some other universe this would be pop, this should be pop, this is pop.

For this we can perhaps be grateful.

The Beast Box is Dreaming…

Beast Box

Our Curious Leader

Animal in the Mirror


I’ve Been Expecting You

Smoking Mirror

Against the Past

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