Picks and Pans Review: Unanswerable Lust
Howard Devoto, front man for this British duo, emotes like a lounge singer who has gone slightly loony. So intense is Devoto's delivery and so extreme his heights of romantic lyricism that without even raising his voice he can sound perilously close to losing his grip on reality. But as he proves on Luxuria's first album, Devoto holds as much, if not more, control over his senses as most other singer-songwriters. In fact the one-time leader of Magazine and the Buzzcocks (both much-loved art-punk bands) joins his bandmate Noko in creating pleasant, if sometimes odd, melodies that will appeal to any pop music fan with a relatively open mind; both Devoto on keyboards and Noko on guitar easily shift musical accompaniment moods. Those who listen carefully will find even finer surprises in Devoto's lyrics, which tend to symbolist poetry. In Lady 21, one of many expressions of Devoto's tortured desire for love, he begs, "Press me to her tumbling beauty, oh gorgeous siren wraith." In Mile., he toys with an excerpt from Proust's Remembrance of Things Past while describing a love affair that resembles an emotional grenade. In a departure from libidinous topics, the album's opening number, Redneck, depicts a performer who grows rich from baring his anguish to the world. "Watch me bite on a bullet and spit out a limousine," Devoto sings. The song ends with the chilling suggestion that "I simply may be evil, I simply may be evil." That idea nags at Devoto as he explores his Unanswerable Lust. He repeats the same line (in slightly altered form) in Luxuria, a song that ends with the refrain, "God's gone back to heaven/He's deserted us/But what the hell/He never understood us anyway." Delivered in Devoto's out-of-kilter voice, that twist on an old form of blasphemy can still give a listener the shivers. (RCA)
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