Howard Devoto: We Simply May Be Evil (1983-1990)

This mix curates Howard Devoto’s music in the period between Buzzcocks/Magazine (1976-1981) and his 1990s hiatus. 

I’m not going to brief anyone on who Devoto is. For those who don’t know, this mix is not the place to start. (Try this Spotify mix.) For those who already bow to Devoto, but who don’t remember his 1980s records, this is for you.

I rank Devoto as one of rock’s great lyricists and one of its most ambitious, unorthodox singers. His 1980s work is an excellent, organic extension of the path he was charting with Magazine. Odd compositional structures, big arrangements, dramatic storytelling, and riffs and phrases that worm their way into you.

You can sing-speak along with contemporary conviction or koan bemusement to pretty much every line Devoto ever uttered. He’s been scripting challenging one-liners for you to spin through your brain since forever. 

Devoto was an unlikely candidate for 1980s music success and failed to make a living at it. He and his collaborators didn’t run from the  aesthetic tendencies of the decade, but they made them their own. In retrospect, Devoto’s arch, erudite, baroque, contrary, take-no-idiots angle on everything resulted in ‘80s music that isn’t facile in 2021. 

Devoto released three albums in the 1980s (supported by at least two tours) and collaborated with other artists here and there. The first of the three albums, “Jerky Versions of the Dream” (1983), was developed with Magazine’s Dave Formula. Devoto and multi-instrumentalist Noko (Norman Fisher-Jones) then teamed up as Luxuria and released two albums (1988, 1990).   

This mix combines studio tracks from those albums, their b-sides, and outlying collaborations. The second “disc” presents a short collection of bootleg-derived live tracks.

90-minute mp3 mixtape zipped up here.

Disc One (studio, 64-minutes):

  • Some Will Pay (for what others pay to avoid)
  • Our Curious Leader
  • Ticket
  • Beast Box
  • Public Highway
  • Pound
  • Redneck
  • Lady 21
  • Jezebel
  • Out of Shape with Me
  • Taking Over Heaven
  • She’s Your Lover Now (parts 1 & 2)
  • Railings (w/Mansun)
  • Holocaust (w/This Mortal Coil)

Disc Two (live, 25-minutes):

  • Mlle (live)
  • Parade (live)
  • Rubbish (live)
  • The Light Pours Out of Me (live)
  • Luxuria (live)