Melody Maker JUNE 24, 1972 - by Richard Williams


Kari-Ann stares, with lustful expectancy, teeth bared and surrounded by frosted deep pink lips. She reclines on a counterpane of silvery satin in a halternecked pink and white swimsuit, built strictly for the boudoir. There's a pink rose failing from one hand, its colour exactly matching her toenails, which peep out from silver platform-heeled sandals. A gold LP nestles beside her.

And all that is just the cover of an extraordinary album, from an extraordinary group. Roxy Music it a concept which not everyone will latch onto at first, but which is as rich in performance as in promise, carefully calculated yet simply oodles of fun. The music on their first album consciously displays echoes of pretty well every style of pop and rock, but it's not a hotch-potch and they're not just a British version of Sha Na Na. Despite their general '50s orientation, the result is thoroughly contemporary, and they use their awareness of earlier modes to inform and reinforce their own unique ideas.

Re-Make/Re-Model (the first cut) is a good place to meet them: over a steady, thudding beat Bryan Ferry declaims his lyric with the throwaway insolence of a Lou Reed. Eno's synthesizer bubbles and squeaks around him, Phil Manzanera's guitar winds up through the gears to peak revs, and Andy Mackay's alto gibbers and judders. The short instrumental breaks contain echoes of Duane Eddy, The Beatles, Cecil Taylor, King Curtis and Robert Moog - tossed out as humorous asides.

Roxy's members - and in particular Ferry, who writes all the songs - are accurately aware of style as beauty unto itself, and Ferry's compositions have an almost visual appeal which is beyond everyone else in rock these days. 2 H.B., for instance, is a homage to Humphrey Bogart (including the famous Here's lookin' at ya, kid line), yet uses thoroughly contemporary means - like alto with echo-repeat, and electric piano loops reminiscent of Terry Riley - to build the mood of a smokey Moroccan night-club. Sea Breezes, too, is startlingly visual - and not just through Eno's VCS3 wave noises. Ferry's wistful melody, embroidered by Mackay on oboe, conjures all kinds of half-forgotten movie fantasies, and the mood is only slightly spoiled by the clever instrumental section mid-way.

The Bob (Medley) is a portrait of the Blitz, with fearsome synthesizer noises, while Chance Meeting has a fascinating fade, the fuzz guitar screaming over lightly-skipping bass. Would You Believe? develops into a Belmonts doowop groove, with more raunchy plastic-reed sax and some great singing - Ferry seems to have half a dozen different voices, none of which sound remotely like anyone else.

Best of all, absolutely, is Ladytron: it begins as a little love song, with flickering castanets, but soon shifts into a 'Johnny Remember Me' groove, all echoing hoofbeats and Manzanera's guitar flying over the top like the horsemen of the Apocalypse finally crashing out huge mushrooming chords as Eno provides a running commentary.

Okay, there's a debit side too. Pete Sinfield's production is generally good, but the overall sound tends sometimes towards mushiness (Re-Make has nothing like the energy of the take they did for Top Gear), and the inclusion of Mellotron strings on If There Is Something, was an obvious mistake - (a) it diminishes the song's impact and (b) it invites totally unnecessary and misleading comparisons with King Crimson, whom they resemble not one whit.

But take it from me: Roxy Music can bring, pictures to your head like no-one else and they've only just begun. Hold it right there Kari-Ann - I'm just finishing this Martini, and then...