Review Summary: Bryan Ferry’s idiosyncratic vocals tackle a catchier, disco-tinged sound than Roxy Music are known for without compromising the band’s artistic merit.
As a band Roxy Music fall into that category of relatively underground, critically acclaimed bands with feverish cult followings. Several of their albums are considered classics, and they had a huge influence on punk, post-punk and new wave artists. Tackling experimental and progressive rock along with irresistible pop-songs, Roxy Music have covered considerable musical ground in their time. Their line-up has changed extensively over the years, but the most prominent members have been Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno, both of which (though especially Eno) have had influential solo careers as well. The tension between the two Br(i/y)ans’ creative ideas led to Eno’s departure after the group’s second album, For Your Pleasure. Brian Ferry’s pop sensibilities then became the prevalent characteristic, as opposed to Eno’s (relatively) more experimental approach to song writing.
Clearly, Eno’s departure gave Ferry more creative freedom to do what he wanted with the band. While this could be perceived as a bad thing, several of Roxy Music’s post-Eno albums seem to be as highly regarded as their debut and sophomore attempts. With Ferry in control of the reigns, Roxy Music bring us a more accessible piece of work than For Your Pleasure
for instance in Siren
. That’s not to say that their sound is watered-down, merely altered, and Siren
is a tremendous piece of work in itself.
The catchy, disco-tinged opener “Love is the Drug” was the band’s first top 40 hit in the states, and for good reason. It’s a really accessible song with the bouncy, head-bop-inducing bassline, and immediately catchy chorus. The lyrics are simple and memorable and fit the general theme of the album, with lyrics like: ”Oh oh catch that buzz / Love is the drug I’m thinking of”
. The general tempo of the album varies from song to song. In terms of tempo, the album offers a nice variety, with outrageously catchy, danceable pop songs like “Love is the Drug” and “Whirlwind”, but also a number of dramatic ballads.
Bryan Ferry is very much at the centre of the album, his lyrics and crooning vocals binding the album together. His voice is often vibrato-heavy, at times sounding like a toned-down Antony Hegarty (from Antony and the Johnsons) especially on “Sentimal Fool”, one of the album’s highlights. After an eerie instrumental introduction lasting more than two minutes, Ferry’s unmistakable, high-pitched vocals kick in. Again the lyrics revolve around love, from a rather negative perspective: ”Sentimental fool / Knowing that fate is cruel / You ought to forget it / Yes it’s true / I’ve seen what love can do / But I don’t regret it”
. It’s a dramatic song, greatly amplified by a subtle synthesizer playing in the background. The closer “Just another High” is very similar to the opener “Love is the Drug” in terms of lyrical symbolism, comparing drug use and love. Similarities end there though, as “Just another High” is a stirring, downbeat song in the vein of “She Sells”, a fitting conclusion to the album.
While the album has a fairly dark lyrical theme, it remains playful and easily enjoyable. Bryan Ferry’s vocals do equally well on the catchy pop songs and beautiful ballads. The bass and guitar throughout the album seemingly owes much to the disco genre, making Siren
a less serious and more carefree than an album like For Your Pleasure
. The cohesive lyrical themes makes this an album to listen to in its entirety, and makes Siren
a very strong piece of work as a whole. It is easily accessible, but still possesses enough subtleties to draw the listeners in and keep them coming back. With no bad songs and several exceptional ones, Siren
is fantastic piece of work.