Roxy Music: Siren (Half Speed Master Vinyl Reissue) (UMC/Virgin) | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, July 5th, 2022  

Roxy Music

Siren (Half Speed Master Vinyl Reissue)

UMC/Virgin

Jun 20, 2022 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


By 1975, a thin white David Bowie was busy crooning plastic soul tunes to young Americans, Marc Bolan had since vanished behind the cutout of Zinc Alloy, Iggy Pop was spiraling into a manic dope haze (but not before having recorded Raw Power, his finest album), and Lou Reed was busy pissing the world off with Metal Machine Music. At the time, one imagines, it felt as though the extravagant pleasure dome of glam and art rock had long since been inaugurated, grown to a blooming garden of earthly delights, and then left to rust. The winds were changing, a post-Watergate world was, however begrudgingly, beginning to move forward. Whatever baroque idealism was once offered by post-hippie youth culture seemed finally to slip through the gaps between one’s fingers as popular music continued its own evolution. If not for Roxy Music and its phenomenal mid-’70s output, the entire scene would have evaporated with the passage of a few years. The influential English art rock outfit’s fifth studio album Siren was, to the world of music, a seductive call across the violent seas of popular culture, beckoning former scene enthusiasts back to the forgotten mythical shore for one more thrill, a sweet reminder that Roxy Music was still relevant and had gracefully aged since releasing the previous year’s avant-garde classic Country Life.

Indeed, Siren is a revelation: a luscious dreamscape of post-glam melancholia, ultimately standing as Roxy Music’s finest album. Boasting the hit song “Love Is the Drug,” which became the group’s breakthrough single in the U.S., reaching #30 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, Siren served as Roxy Music’s introduction to a wider American audience. “Love is the Drug,” as with much of the album, melds the avant-garde extremism of previous efforts Roxy Music, For Your Pleasure, Stranded, and Country Life with the sharp, funk-inflected art pop sensibilities of Bryan Ferry’s future vision, the suave frontman refusing to retire his signature “lounge lizard” persona entirely, which is a virtue here, as his slick, white-tuxedoed English charm adds greatly to the album’s harmonious shuffle. Siren’s key track (and arguably one of Roxy Music’s greatest accomplishments) “End of the Line” finds Ferry flawlessly crooning a tale of heartache and separation against a shimmering piano melody, accentuated by a salty harmonica and, later on, a ghostly violin, which renders the experience absolutely perfect. “Were you ever lonely?/Mystified and blue?” Ferry inquires of his listeners. “Realizing only/Your number’s up/You’re through.” One of the greatest breakup tracks to emerge from its decade, “End of the Line” is an underrated Roxy Music gem, deserving of yet more lavish praise. The same can be said of capricious art ballad “Sentimental Fool,” which calls to mind Roxy Music’s earlier experimentalism, as Ferry smoothly confesses, “Though it’s all in vain/I’d do it all again/Just to relive a minute.” The song’s saxophone-led rush carries the listener to greater heights of titillation, before the passion begins to fade with Ferry’s sudden shift toward the sinister, asking: “The beat of your heart/Is like a drum/Will it stop?”—leaving the listener, now out in the dark, shivering in an attempt to catch their own breath.

Baroque piano rocker “She Sells” is saturated in sweeping strings of English melodrama, juxtaposed with a wall of tumbling percussion and funky basslines, before eventually taking on a harder edge, while glossy lounge track “Could It Happen to Me?” finds Ferry holding up his former persona for all to see and tearing it to shreds, revealing at last, “an average man” hidden beneath. This is another of Roxy Music’s stronger mid-’70s cuts, Ferry displaying a degree of playful vulnerability throughout its lyrics, the band coming together to produce a highly sophisticated glam sensation, well-equipped with enough heady pop sensibility and electric viciousness to persevere throughout the decade. Elsewhere, the classic “Both Ends Burning” serves as a precursor to the group’s sonic pursuits of the late-’70s and early-’80s. Perhaps a bit of the sound found on 1982’s Avalon was born on this particular track, its postmodern exotica alive and searing. Chiming album closer “Just Another High” returns Roxy Music’s sound to the glory days of glam, a mere two or three years behind, with its delirious sensuality dipped in trippy summertime guitars, Ferry’s longing from afar infusing a heavier air of blue romanticism, as the singer confesses: “I’m just another crazy guy/Playing with love was another high/Such a crazy high.”

Even 47 years after the fact, Siren remains fresh and Roxy Music’s legacy lives on. UMC/Virgin’s vinyl reissue of the album, along with the rest of the group’s catalog, should restore interest in such an influential musical outfit, which helped to advance any number of genres and subgenres. Even weaker Roxy Music entries are unique experiences in their own right, from each release’s inimitable sound to its trademark high fashion-themed “pin-up”-style cover art—Siren’s features model Jerry Hall crawling iconically upon the seaside rocks near South Stack, Anglesey, WLS.

UMC/Virgin’s Siren vinyl reissue will make an ideal addition to any music enthusiast’s collection. What Roxy Music accomplished during this creative peak still warrants admiration, the music still matters, and the scene from which it was born is just as intriguing through history’s lens as actually being there must’ve been. Siren is a great rock album, a popular culture relic, and a miniature encyclopedia of post-glam pleasures. Listen closely, and you will hear once more that distant call. (www.roxymusic.co.uk)

Author rating: 10/10

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