Take away the melody from most lyrics, and they sound like doggerel. Not so with the words of Howard Devoto, the literate British post-punk rocker who writes songs as if they were destined for a poetry review. Best known for leading the late '70s experimental group Magazine, Devoto luxuriates in every syllable that he delivers with this duo. "The atomic structure of this caress/Massive, silent and numb/As light as consciousness," he sings in "Karezza."
On Luxuria's 1988 debut album, Devoto and his sideman, Noko, took similarly rich language, matched it with powerful rock melodies and created a style that deftly balanced high and low culture. If they intended to take another step closer to the mainstream with the new album, they failed. Beast Box, though full of pleasures, plunges Luxuria back into obscurity; both the lyrics and the music reach new levels of complexity. Noko, who plays guitars, keyboards and banjolin, has polished these arrangements to the point that they overpower the melodies. Devoto's singing also defies standard rock styles. His quavering delivery, full of unpredictable emotion, makes him sound close to nervous collapse. It takes time to appreciate Luxuria's music. But if you're the type who regularly attends poetry readings, maybe this CD's for you. (RCA/Beggars Banquet)