INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Creem JULY 1974 - by Lester Bangs
ROXY MUSIC: CATCH THE NEXT SENSATION
LISTEN! I bent your ears about Lou and The Velvet Underground, I told ya to go buy Mott last year and aren't you glad! Damn straight. Well, I'm serving notice right now on everybody to go and wolf down the new albums by Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry.
Just try to imagine a lead singer who sounds like a low-warbling cross between Bowie, Lou Reed and Elvis, singing a wide crosscut of punk sneer overlaid with a broad swath of Victorian Romanticism and space noise with mean-ass guitar. Sound like a bit much? Well, that's what I thought at first too, I laughed, but these two albums have been my constant obsessions since I got the British editions two months ago. Once you let them work their venal magic on your inner ear canal you'll know why I'm frothing.
Bryan Ferry has spewed out such a remade/remodeled set of diverse styles that initially you don't know how to take him. So take him as Bowie with guts, maybe, a true dude even though he likes to pose in melancholy pix as poor Byron bowed with victory at the pinnacle of ennui. One thing's certain: he's pulled his chops together from the sometimes strained excursions of the first two Roxy albums - available here on Warner Bros. - in which a multitude of idioms seemed sometimes to be pulling in every direction at once.
Take Street Life, one of Stranded's two El Perfectos. Opens with tides of muted noise, then whomps ya with a perfect fuzz hook, organ echoing so off-key it covers all the bases, and Bryan shouting bitterly: "Wish everybody would leave me alone / Don't always call me on the telephone / When I pick it up there's no one there / So I walk outside just to take the air / C'mon with me cruising down the street / Who knows what you'd find, who you might meet... Now I'm blinded I can really see / No more bright lights confusing me... When you hear how he snarls out Gotta take you dowwn!," you know you're dealing with a whole new breed of fey badass.
Sound like your kind of meat? I thought so, and that's only the beginning. Just check Mother Of Pearl. After listening to this twisto masterpiece 5,000 times and cogitating on its cosmic import unending, I have discerned its meaning. This guy goes to a beat-'em-out party where smoky entities hover in the air and angry guitars slash through the sprawled bodies raking associations. Bryan growls through the murk; Get the picture? No, no, no! Yeah! Walk a tight sideline! Have you a future? No, no, no! Yeah...
But you gotta come down sooner or, and he does, into a morning after of scattered final insights: "Well I've been up all night party-time wasting it's too much fun / Then I step back thinking of life's inner meaning and my latest fling / It's the same old story..." So where's the solution? Nowhere, shmuck. No love in the looking glass world, and every goddess is just a beddown. So turn to your heroes: Every idol a bringdown, it gets you down. So he delves into the must of literary antiquity and trawls up even Nietzsche wanting: Thus even Zarathustra, another time loser. O.K., so why don't you just Berlin slash your wrists? Because you're an old timer, that's why. Bryan Ferry is a Victorian Romantic and suddenly he sees this divine wraithlike faun-angel diaphanously rising from the wreckage of ideals: "I have been looking for something I've always wanted, but was never mine / But now I've seen that something out of reach glowing, very Holy Grail... this lady of a sacred world."
But can you ball her? No, this guy's head is so poetically twisted he can only find satisfaction in the unattainable, but you can score your own tete-a-tetes to this music and maybe that's enough. The rest of the album, like Serenade and A Song To Europe, is even more Continentally trapped, but it's all for your pleasure. And the band is so good that... well, you'll find out.
The solo album is just one up on Pin Ups. Instead of fixating his grasping nostalgias in a single era, Bryan culls Dylan, Smokey, The Stones, Beatles, Beach Boys, and even Lesley Gore, and brings something new and excitingly valid to each of them. The fact that he is usually singing against the melody helps a lot, almost as much as the most brilliant production job since Transformer. You have got to hear what this ironic-tongued limey does to A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall, how he simultaneously sounds like Levi Stubbs and a rabid poof in Loving You Is Sweeter, how he turns everything he touches to the total musical conception transcending eclecticism that has given me most hope in a year that already looks brighter for rock 'n' roll than anything since 1968 kicked over and sped itself blind.
Only one minor criticism: Andy Mackay, who plays sax with Roxy as well as on Mott's All The Way From Memphis and sounds like Albert Ayler cloned into big '50s honkers, is not featured as prominently on Stranded as on earlier Roxy.
WE NEED MORE FROM ALL THESE GUYS. 'Till we get it, make these in your local discoterieas and, in the immortal words of James Brown (Money Won't Change You): Git It Git It Git It!