INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Creem APRIL 1975 - by Lester Bangs
KEVIN AYERS: THE CONFESSIONS OF DR. DREAM
While I must confess to a predisposition to like just about anything under the Island logo, it seemingly being the last bastion of whatever could possibly be avant-garde (a concept I'd just about given up on), and while any record with Nico even sweeping up after the sessions is sure to get my attention, I still must say that Ayers doesn't make it.
I love Roxy and Eno and John Cale and I'd marry Nico if I thought I was pretty enough and she was warm enough, and anything remotely Velvets or Lou Reed influenced will get a close scrutiny on my turntable, so naturally I jumped right on the June 1, 1974 album, which contained all of the above artists with the exception of Lou, including an absolutely cackling Eno and a whole side devoted to this newcomer Kevin Ayers.
Who is not Eno, or Nico, or Cale, or even Sterling Morrison, and especially is not Lou Reed even though he more than occasionally makes half-brusque attempts to mate Lou's Velvet's rhythms and gutter slur with a more European sort of moody cafe-dribble which drones somewhere in the neighbourhood of what Lou was trying to do with the original version of Berlin, as well as what kind of Lotte Lenya flash in the parodistic pan Nico could have been if she didn't have her own tundras to ford, not to mention the smacked-out murk mumbles of Tim Buckley in his Lorca-Blue Afternoon phase.
Ayers is livelier than most of the people he's been influenced by, in fact he seems to have a certain wryness that is just short of ingratiating, but unfortunately seems to translate itself too often into the kind of sloppiness which suggests that he basically just doesn't care, he'd rather be down at the bar singing toasts to the crumbling demimonde with his tongue so far in his cheek it's tickling his earlobe. His music is plain dull most of the time, and unlike a true genius such as Eno (whose Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) is the first Big Move of '75 and should be out in this country by the time you read this) he doesn't have the imagination to funnel his influences into something truly compelling and personal.
Although he does have his moments. His side of June 1 was solid snooze, but the opening minutes of Dr. Dream's title track are promisingly strange, as he and Nico weave phasing in and out of a sifting silt-tide of musical quicksand gasping at each other in the hopeless tumescence-thwart ed void. (Nico must be the best bad lay on the planet; besides which, anybody that would set themselves to showing Iggy the ropes just has to be an angel of celestial suppletude.) (As for Kevin, I think he whacks off in his beer mug.) Unfortunately this utterly mesmerising musical undertow is soon towed straight down into about a quarter hour of the lamest most predictable 1968 art-rock (mostly instrumental) perambulations, with Nico nowhere in sight. Left to sing on his own when he isn't diddling with other noise vectors, Kevin is a stutterer coughing in a broom closet. And his songs are plain silly. Last year first Roxy and then especially Eno stunned me with the realisation that it was indeed still possible to be "far out", even if you were using hoary Velvet Underground riffs as a launching pad. Now most of these people are carrying that noblest of experiments even further (although Roxy appears to be teetering on the downslide of the kind of self-parody that made them an acquired taste in the first place, and Bryan Ferry's camp which is not even low but more fitting to high school talent shows threatens to strangle him within the fortnight), Eno is taking the mastodon by the tusks and steering it straight into the future we need so desperately, Cale continues to acquit himself with elan, Nico's return promises to plummet us all into arctic ecstasies... all this action, and Kevin Ayers rides along on the coattails of people who may talk maddening paradox but really do care. Don't be fooled; send him back to the old art-schoolers' pub.