INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Phonograph Record DECEMBER 1972 - by Alan Neister
Given that this isn't a lead review and that therefore what I'm about to babble may seem like mere polemic, I feel I have to tell you anyway, despite the possibility of abuse: This is so far and away the best, most original, most incredible album of the year that it makes the mind boggle.
I have the opportunity to try and convince you of this, and it's an opportunity I cherish like Tim Leary would cherish a free pass to the White House water purifier. 'Cause this album is so great I wanna turn the whole bloody world on to it. LISTEN, BROTHERS. THIS IS IT. THIS IS WHAT YOU'VE BEEN MOANING FOR SINCE '69 AND IT'S HERE NOW, SO DON'T BLOW IT!!!
Exactly why? Well, the reason is simply that in Roxy Music you can glean elements of every musical style or taste we've been party to in the last five years. It may not be obvious at first, but it's all there. You can make a good case for your favorite group at nearly every given point. I should have made a list of every identifying riff nearly submerged in the mix, but I didn't. Like, some are a little more obvious than others. What I correctly identified as a Velvets feel in side one/cut one, a friend argued for Phil Spector working The Chipmunks at sixteen and a half. Beefheart's definitely there, but refined and musical. Stan Getz is there, but broken-nosed and hard. The gruesome complexity of King Crimson melts with the hump-rock orgasmic Stooge climax. Freddy & The Dreamers melt into The Fugs and come out Shirley Bassey.
It's all there if you wanna make a case for it. And so, having all these obvious '60s influences, the sound comes across as both a total amalgam of the '60s and the first original sound of the '70s, complete with '70s (and '80s) super-electronics and '40s/'50s jazz decadence. The total sound of this album assures that whatever happens to the band, Roxy Music the album will remain an entity to itself for ever and ever amen. The sound is strange, cosmic and unearthly, and because of that it takes a hell of a lot of work to actually get into the album with all the intensity it deserves. But it's like olives or octopus meat or chocolate-covered angleworms, you have to be patient and work up a taste for them and forget about other people puking in your face.
Everyone I know, me included, saw nothing in the album the first couple of times through. But without exception, everyone I've submitted it to has now seen the light and are spreading THE WORD throughout the land with me. Given time and the slightest touch of patience, the subtlety of the musical blend and the sheer incredible outrageousness of the talent, originality and brilliance begins to seep through, slowly at first until, like when you guzzle ten or twenty ounces of vodka, it suddenly belts your being like Hans Schmidt's right hand.
What's really neat is that the group themselves knew that this was gonna happen, that not everybody could really embrace the whole thing all at once. So they put in some simpler, boppier tunes which force you to come back the first few times. You play the album all the way through to get to stuff like Re-Make/Re-Model, a Velvets space-truck Stooge hard-on shuffle, which is the best opening album cut since Hey Grandma or Virginia Plain which sounds like Ray Davies before his vasectomy; or 2 H.B. which is the best tribute to Bogart imaginable, and is sung in an alcoholic nostalgia stupor in which lead-vocalist Bryan Ferry is eyeing some warm body across the table and spouting poetry while crooning Here's Looking At You, Babe, while all the time his premature ejaculation is running down the inside of his tiger-skin pants.
Finally, because you've been forced to listen to the originally less interesting stuff, it too begins to invade your consciousness. That's when you begin to realise that the real meat of the album is contained in these truly empyrean and timeless masterpieces, like Ladytron. This is the most painful yet psyche-grabbing moment in rock this year, (challenged only by Stephen Davis' appointment at Rolling Stone). It begins with a synthesizer solo, real down-slow heavy stuff which sets up a mood entirely in contrast to Re-Make which preceded it. Then Ferry breaks in with the most unearthly and poignant warble imaginable, reminiscent of what God might sound like after he sees Alice Cooper's new Concentration Camp stage routine and decides to divide the orb into component neutrons and start over, and so sings to an empty universe, You got me girl on a run around, got me runnin' round town, or something to that effect, which I find myself singing to the stars at night hoping that Roxy Music will come down in their neuro-orbiter and take me to this place where only sounds have meaning and nothing else matters, period.
Yeah, sure it sounds like just a lot of strange sound effects and shit the first time you hear it, and maybe it doesn't fit into any category except its own, but for your own sake don't give up on it. It'll eventually grab you like a benevolent cancer and you won't play another album with the same sense of impartial joy for weeks to come. Roxy Music deserves every one of those hypes they've been getting in the English press. You bet buster!