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Roxy Music: For Your Pleasure (1973) April 3, 2010

Posted by sjroby in Music.
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Roxy Music: For Your Pleasure

So I’m reading On Some Faraway Beach: The Life and Times of Brian Eno by David Sheppard, about which more shortly, and I’m in a section of the book dealing with Eno’s time in Roxy Music and it occurs to me that I haven’t listened to For Your Pleasure in some time.

So I do. And it’s as brilliant as ever. The manic pop thrills of “Do the Strand” and “Editions of You” (and the best ever sequence of sax/synth/guitar solos in the latter) are the instant gratification moments of the album, but there’s plenty of strangeness and drama to maintain the listener’s interest in the longer, more experimental songs.

I first heard this album back around the end of 1980, when I was 17 and a fan of new wave and David Bowie and the usual suspects and had picked up Roxy Music’s Greatest Hits and become utterly enthralled, even more than I expected (I knew a few of their later songs). So I went out and bought For Your Pleasure, the band’s second album, originally released in 1973. It was a long way from the suave and sophisticated image of Roxy Music in 1980. Some of it’s new wave years before new wave, like Neu! and a handful of others, but it’s also progressive rock. I was discovering Ultravox and the Stranglers around the same time, but I was also still listening to a bit of King Crimson, Pink Floyd, and even Yes then, too, and For Your Pleasure was the link between them.

The album kicks off with the fast and propulsive “Do the Strand,” which proposes “a danceable solution to teenage revolution.” This would fit well in any new wave playlist. The next two songs, “Beauty Queen” and “Strictly Confidential,” might be described as prog ballads, being atmospheric and quiet early on before allowing the full band to bring a bit of a racket for a climax. Then there’s another proto-new wave rocker, “Editions of You,” another stomper remembered by many for the aforementioned solos (the synth bit can still raise eyebrows). Side one ends with the eerie “In Every Dream Home A Heartache,” in which Bryan Ferry sings over ominous keyboard and guitar lines about the unhappiness in modern homes before addressing his inflatable sex doll in the tones of an obsessed lover. About three minutes in, the drums kick in and an almost Pink Floyd-like squall of guitar soloing and keyboards relieve the tension, before fading into a false ending and returning gradually with phased/distorted instruments before fading out again.

Side two starts off with the nine-minute long “The Bogus Man,” but its steady beat and keyboard pulses and guitar scratches, along with near random instrumental interjections and Ferry’s distorted vocals, maintains a groove that makes the nine minute duration hypnotic rather than excessive, not unlike some long krautrock tracks. “Grey Lagoons” starts out with Ferry crooning over piano, organ, and backing vocals, before drums and bass join in after the first couple of lines, and a brief guitar solo comes in where a chorus might be expected, then there’s another verse, the guitar returns, and the band speeds up into a rocking interlude with a sax solo, then the beat shifts a little and bass and a brash harmonica solo take the lead, before speeding up again for an extended guitar solo supported by a pounding piano line, then Ferry starts crooning again…. And the album closes with the title track, another atmospheric and hypnotic slow song.

This isn’t a terribly satisfying album for people who want straightforward song structures — there’s not a lot of verse chorus verse chorus bridge chorus here. It is very satisfying, however, for listeners who want something adventurous and different. Unfortunately, Roxy Music’s second album is also their last with Brian Eno; without his experimental drive, Ferry would take the band in a more conventional direction. They did some great music without Eno but it wasn’t like the music they did with him.

Anyone whose idea of Roxy Music is restricted to songs like, say, “Dance Away,” “Over You,” “Avalon,” and “More Than This” will have no idea what this album sounds like. The young Ferry’s voice can be a bit of an acquired taste, with its almost random vibrato, and it can be mannered and affected at times. But For Year Pleasure rewards the effort it may take to get into it.

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