Released before Roxy Music became a de facto Bryan Ferry project, but after their Brian Eno-influenced art-rock stage, Siren is a snapshot of a band in flux, and loving it. There's little of the boundary-pushing primitivism that marked their self-titled debut. Still, Ferry's youthful edge and the band's rough-hewn melodicism will shock those expecting to hear the adult-contemporary silkiness found on 1982's massive-selling Avalon. Both camps should nevertheless admire this record for so recklessly and beautifully straddling that massive stylistic gap. Featuring their first modest hit in the U.S., "Love Is the Drug," the record overflows with choruses that reveal their hooks slowly while drawing on sunny, spare instrumentation and Ferry's loopy, still-developing croon. As the band wrestles between glam-pop, sleek dance tunes, and shiny, Moody Blues-esque rock & roll, they don't sound at all like a band running from its past. Ferry and his cohorts are just taking back the reins, revealing the brisk melodies and strong songwriting that were the one constant in Roxy Music's lifespan. --Matthew Cooke
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Mike B. | 09/13/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bryan Ferry was smitten with model Jerry Hall while writing Roxy Music's fifth album "Siren" - and these songs are wistful, pleading love letters. That's her on the cover. In Greek mythology, if a sailor heard the singing of the beautiful and divine sirens wafting out over the sea - he faced certain death by sailing too close and crashing his boat against the rocky cliffs of the island on which they dwelt. Less catastrophically, Ferry was merely heartbroken when Hall left him a couple years after this to begin her long relationship with Mick Jagger.
The first 5 Roxy Music albums are an endless treasure trove of riches. Starting in 1972 with their eponymous debut "Roxy Music", they were truly unlike anyone else. Most of the band members were art school graduates, and they conceived each new album as a conceptual whole. No detail was too small. The group worked closely with fashion designers and hair and make-up people, and even gave them credits in the liner notes. With their space-age look and debonair romantic lyrics, the band struck gold in England and Europe right out of the gate with the hit single "Virginia Plain".
Of course, none of this would mean a thing without the sounds to back it up. All these guys are masters of their instruments, which enhances the listening experience immeasurably. Of special note are the contributions of Phil Manzanera on guitar, and Andy Mackay on sax and woodwinds. Brian Eno offered outrageous experimental synthesizer, but left the group after their second album "For Your Pleasure". He could also be heard singing backing vocals behind Ferry's swoon-worthy croon. Eno was replaced by Eddie Jobson, who did a fine job on keyboards and electric violin. Paul Thompson was a rock-solid drummer.
Next came "Stranded" and "Country Life", both of which are fantastic. "Siren" (1975) is less avant-garde than the previous four albums. Instrumentally and lyrically it's a simpler, more heartfelt affair. There's still some freakout passages and songs ("Whirlwind", "Both Ends Burning") - but largely the record is accessible and comparatively "normal". Maybe that's why it holds up so well. Who can't relate to wanting to be loved and hoping their heart won't be broken? "Could It Happen To Me?" and "Just Another High" are two of my all-time favorites, and it includes the great worldwide hit "Love Is The Drug". After a few years apart, a newly reconfigured Roxy Music re-emerged as a semi-disco dance music act on albums featuring some oldies covers. "Manifesto" and "Flesh And Blood" are good, but certainly different. The highly polished classic "Avalon" marked the end of the band in 1983.
Altogether, Roxy Music released 8 studio albums - and they are all worth owning. Don't miss out!"
jcd | 08/23/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Briefly, for me the two main things about "Siren": It's not as conventional a pop record as some make it out to be; its sublime soundscape is the most subtly but perhaps most affectingly subversive/surrealist among Roxy's records. ("Siren" is an apt title.) And Ferry has by this time become a wonderfully strong lyricist, achieving here a quite brilliantly written song cycle on the impossibility of post-modern love. Ambitious and satisfying."