Album #221: Luxuria – Unanswerable Lust

  • Released: 1988
  • Origin: Manchester/Bootle, England
  • Label: Beggars Banquet
  • Best Track: Redneck

Possibly my most serendipitous discovery yet, and if I explain how it came about, it will only show how tragically sad some of the ways I entertain myself are!

Basically, I find myself wondering whether just about every song that’s ever been released can today be found on YouTube. To test this, I go to the Official Charts website and look for an act that had just one very minor chart “hit”, ideally just inside the top 100, and from a pre-internet age.

So as you do, I’m browser through the singles chart from the week commencing January 10th, 1988. I settle on Luxuria, whose song ‘Redneck’ was at #95 in that week’s charts, rising to #85 the following week. After that, it dropped out of the top 100, and this represents the beginning and end of Luxuria’s chart history. Can you get much more of an obscure chart legacy than that?

So who were Luxuria? I thought from their name they could be a metal band, or perhaps an Italian house act, although in early 1988 they would’ve been a forerunner in that movement. I put ‘Luxuria Redneck’ into YouTube, and no surprise that it’s there. More surprisingly, it’s a really good song!

It turns out Luxuria was a duo consisting of Buzzcocks founder member and Magazine frontman Howard Devoto, and Norman “Noko” Fisher-Jones, a former touring bassist for The Cure who would perhaps enjoy his biggest commercial success in the ’90s with electronic dance act Apollo 440. The pair were introduced to each other by the Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelley, and wrote two albums.

‘Redneck’ gets their debut Unanswerable Lust off and running, and what a song! The memorable chorus, the moving backing vocals, the echo-drenched post-punk guitar that doesn’t kick in until halfway through. All wonderful. Perhaps most fascinating of all, though, are the lyrics.

I can’t find any analysis of what this song is supposed to be about, and a contributor to Genius describes the lyrics as “inscrutable”, so I’m going to give it a go. I think ‘Redneck’ is about being an artist – the joys and pains of having to entertain people for a living, and how doing so carries great power and commands respect (“I am a major prophet/I am heaven and hell bent strong”), yet at the same time has its limitations (“I am the height of a sign”) and can lead to the paranoia of being misinterpreted (“Wide of the mark”). Just when you think you’ve digested it all, it ends with the wailed curveball “I simply may be evil”. Truly intriguing stuff.

Sadly, I’m not too keen on the rest of the album. It’s a bit gothic and foreboding, largely because of Devoto’s vocals. Perhaps it just hasn’t aged too well, but songs like ‘Pound’ and ‘Rubbish’ manage to sound serious and silly at the same time. Some good moments are present though, like the more caustic and new wave ‘Celebrity’, and a decent indie-fied stab at country rock with ‘Mlle’.

A so-so record then, but with one track I really think is a lost gem of the decade. I’m delighted to have found it by mistake!

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