Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Roxy Music: Mixed Pleasure

Today we're going to have a look at a band that steered away from the well-established glam rock norms of the early 70s to create a sound which would inspire many bands in the following decades. The group kept certain staples of glitter--particularly lyrical content and stage presence--while adding new experimental sounds, techniques and timings. The group arguably pioneered many of the elements of the new wave genre popularized in the 80s with bands like the Cure or the Talking Heads.

Rocker Profile: Roxy Music began its formation in November 1970. The group was a revolving door for several musicians including front man Brian Ferry, the prominent singer/song-writer and keyboardist of the group. The band tasted its first critical success with its self-titled debut in '72. The album single "Virginia Plain" gained the group their first television appearance on the BBC's "Top of the Pops", an appearance which instantly launched the group into the European mainstream. Their second album, "For your Pleasure", saw the group opening up and using their talent and creativity to stand apart from some of the cookie-cutter glam acts of the early seventies. After many critical ups and downs and endless rotations in the band's line-up, Roxy Music disbanded in mid 83.

Glamtastic Review: Roxy Music's "For your Pleasure" is not an easy listen. The band, riding on the critical positivity of it's first release, used their sophmore album to broadcast its darker, musically strange, ideas. Songs like "Grey Lagoons" and "Bogus Man" weave an unstructured and sporatic musical template, sprinkled with short verses of surreality. Many of the songs on the album push the four or five minute mark making them less radio-friendly. Length alone doesn't make the music on "for your pleasure" unworthwhile. In fact, there are several incredibly catchy tracks on this record, one of my favorites "beauty queen" includes incredible, slowly bleated melodies by Ferry. What makes this album hard to grasp as a listener is the consistently inconsistent experimentation throughout the piece. There are far too many ideas compressed into the eight tracks. Many great albums, particularly from this decade, successfully integrate musicianship and experimentation. Pink Floyd's the dark side of the moon for example, was released within a week of "For your Pleasure" and it still impresses with originality today. "For your Pleasure" simply falls flat with bland breakdowns and odd audio tinkering.

What I Like about the Album:

-The album strays from many glam rock norms, it pushes and succeeds largely at standing out from the rest of the glitter scene of the 70s

-The band is really talented. One listen to "Grey Lagoons" is enough to prove to any listener that the group is made up of seasoned veterans.

-A lot of the filler on the album is seemingly improvised with talent. It simply isn't variable enough to keep the interest of the audience.

What I Don't Like about the Album:

-The vocals don't provide anything special. The lead vocalist has a very limited range.

-Many of the songs are needlessly lengthy brimming with out-of-place filler in an attempt to beef up a short track list.

-The record simply isn't fun to listen to in it's entirety. Different musical ideas in “For your Pleasure” bombard the senses.

What makes this album glam?

-Androgynous vocals coupled with shredding guitars.

-Flamboyant, artistic presentation of sound.

Verdict: For your Pleasure places a clear spotlight on the group as talented instrumentalists but it places far too much emphasis on the use of out of place flashy effects. The band certainly pushes for a darker glam sound with eerie lyrics and experimental effects manipulation but this approach isn’t very successful. Though enjoyable in spots, the album simply comes off as overly artsy.

3 bottles of your mother's make-up out of 5

Roxy music: "Do the Strand"

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