Brian Eno is MORE DARK THAN SHARK
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"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno

Uncut MAY 2002 - by Chris Roberts

BRYAN FERRY: FRANTIC

The Rake's Progress

'Languid', we might have expected, Frantic, no. At first, it seems an odd title from a perfectionist who, latterly, has been less than prolific. Though the record was close to completion before last year's Roxy Music reunion tour, he's brought a sprinkle of Roxy's razamatazz back to its final coating. Perhaps the experience kick-started his art. Having for ages distilled his muse through lovingly crafted textures and moodscapes, he's now sounding punchy and potent again. Unlike, say, the dreaming spirals of 1994's Mamouna or the twinkling time capsule of 1999's As Time Goes By, Frantic is packed with potential singles, as if he's decided it's no crime to enjoy himself, to embrace foolish things earthier than Avalon. This is classic Ferry, but full of surprises.

Stylish self-penned songs interact with the mandatory covers: there are two Dylan numbers: It's All Over Now, Baby Blue, and Don't Think Twice, the second a sparse piano-and-voice cut. There's blues god Leadbelly's Goodnight Irene, Cajun-style, but any hints of corn are assuaged by the way Ferry sighs, "Sometimes I have a great notion, to jump in the river and drown". As ever, his voice - wonderfully expressive throughout - elevates angst to existentialism.

This time though, the ready-mades are red herrings. His own rejuvinated lyrical twists will thrill die-hards. Cruel and Goddess Of Love (inspired by Marilyn), both co-written with Dave Stewart, tap into that mother-of-pearl motherlode, slaves to romantic submission. Many have tried but no one's ever flown like Ferry when, in "a world full of heartbreak", he asks "Where is that sunshine? where is that rainbow?"

It's always just around the corner, of course, and his unruffled questing drives Nobody Loves Me and the melodramatic, Camelot-tinged, Fool For Love.

The playing is impeccable: Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood guests on the spooky, sensuous Hiroshima, and Brian Eno co-wrote, plays and even sings on the lilting I Thought. The highlight though, is the eerie, lustful San Simeon, a sequel to In Every Dream Home a Heartache. Here, Ferry resurrects lyrics he left out of the final draft of that Roxy epic, ushering them into a new nexus of nostalgia for Orson Welles' Xanadu and its ghostly glamour. "Delicate touches," as he croons, "they're simply charming..."

Frantic is both graceful and gutsy. It's dashing.


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