“Work. Got the new Sparks and Roxy Music LP’s – both great. Nig came round in evening and we went down the Clock. Got quite pi–ed”
What a great day! Two important albums added to my burgeoning collection then drinking until drunk in the evening!
Sparks’ Indiscreet – with it’s bizarre cover (where DID they get a scrap plane from?) – is perhaps my favourite of their output as it is crammed full of some fabulous memorable songs. Here’s a few highlights…
Things kick off in grand style with the military two-step of “Hospitality On Parade“, Ron Mael’s sly dig at America’s independence and its later obsession for mass consumerism. For me, this has always represented one of THE weirdest album openers I have ever heard but it does set out the table for the feast of great songs that follow it.
“Without Using Hands” carries the refrain “Oh, what a lovely city, city, city, city”, referring to Paris, and is a snappy little number if somewhat bizarre in lyrical content, mixing as it does certain ‘sexual favours’ with that of someone’s personal disability following a terrorist attack. No, I am not making that up.
“Get In The Swing” was the second big hit single off the album. A real cracker of a pop song it was too!
“Under The Table With Her” is beautiful. It would appear to the be the tale of two dogs hiding underneath a banquet table at a fancy-schmancy gathering of bigwigs. The strings are so crisp and becoming it suckers you in just long enough to spit you out with a premature finish.
“How Are You Getting Home?” is another Ron Mael ode to ‘getting some’, in this case from a girl he’s met at a party to whom he want to give a ride to. In every sense of the phrase.
“Tits” is as close to a drinking song as you’ll ever get from the Mael brothers. Apparently set in a bar it tells the tale of two beer buddies slowly getting drunk with one of them complaining that his wife’s …erm… breasts are now for the sole pleasure of his new-born child. Motto: May as well get drunk instead!
“Looks, Looks, Looks” was the biggie, the single which sent sales of the album soaring. The single reached #26 in the singles chart, whilst the album eventually peaked at number 18 in the album chart.
Roxy Music’s “Siren” was – as far as I am concerned – the last of what I consider to be their ‘classic output’. (For me, 1979’s “Manifesto” represented the beginning of the end of Bryan Ferry’s songwriting skills).
It’s a bit hodge-podgy and not helped by the presence of Ferry’s then- girlfriend Jerry Hall gracing the cover. I never, ever thought her to be attractive and certainly not a patch on previous Roxy cover girls like Marilyn Cole or Kari-Ann Muller.
I have waxed lyrically about the album’s opener “Love is the Drug” before, and I maintain that it is one of THE finest album openers of all time.
“End of the Line” features some nice violin and slide guitar but is a little too ‘ploddy’ for my liking, plus Ferry’s vocals are double-tracked somehow making the sentiment of the lyrics diluted.
“Sentimental Fool” finds Ferry trying a little bit too hard to emulate the ‘noisescape’ pioneered by Brian Eno on the debut album, the song itself taking forever to get going and turn itself into anything melodic. And then when it does it’s… well, disappointing.
Side One’s closer “Whirlwind” is MUCH more like it. Loud, bouncy and fun, Ferry’s quirky vocal stylings to the fore.
Side Two kicks off with “She Sells“. Actually it’s more of a mis-kick. It sounds very weak until Andy Mackay’s sax kicks in to liven things up.
“Could it Happen to Me” feels like another sloppily-written song, pre-dating the whole ‘coffee table’ sound Ferry would later become FAR too enthusiastic about.
Then – almost unexpectedly – along comes another corker.
“Both Ends Burning” feels like classic Roxy. And by classic I mean ‘first three albums Roxy’. Soaring sax, choppy guitars, bongos (yes bongos!) and Ferry’s lyrics all over the place and yet in the same place all at once. I love it… and there’s no wonder it was plucked as the follow-up single to “Love is the Drug”. It’s maybe the only other cut on the album that would have sounded good on the radio at the time. It reached a lowly #25 on the British chart, failing to even make an appearance on the Billboard chart across the pond.
The penultimate cut “Nightingale” is another clunker and doesn’t prepare you for the mighty “Just Another High” which brings the album to a close.
I’m not surprised that Roxy disbanded as soon as the tour support of “Siren” was completed. The album has three, maybe four, worthy tracks, the rest all sounding very limp. Still, four and half albums of classic rock music isn’t too bad is it?