As seemingly unimportant as it might be, a band’s album’s cover art is one of the most important aspects of its reputation. For Roxy Music, album art spoke volumes about the band. Each of their first five records depicted a vampy model posing on the cover. The self-titled record had the grimacing girl in pink lingerie; For Your Pleasure had the leather-clad socialite with her panther on a leash; Stranded‘s cover showed us a soaking wet girl washed ashore; and the unforgettable Country Life was the closest their records came to softcore with girls in sheer undies, one of them topless. To finish their sexy cover canon, they enlisted then-unknown Texan model Jerry Hall to pose as a finned, aquatic…um…siren, with seaweed-like hair. As the last album of theirs to be decked with a photo of a sexy model, it also marked the end of their glam rock days, as solo projects and changing trends found the band moving into a different direction as the decade went on.
As an album, Siren was every bit as intelligent and stylish as Roxy Music’s previous efforts. It was, incidentally, the first of their records from which two singles were released, “Love is the Drug” and “Both Ends Burning.” Here, however, Bryan Ferry was beginning to adopt the persona of a suave crooner, seducing the ladies with his smooth pipes. It was mostly camp, sure, but in his solo career, he was taking on more cheesy disco-pop love songs, though some later singles like “Don’t Stop the Dance” and “Kiss and Tell” were, I admit, pretty catchy. Despite the faux-romantic vibe he was giving off, however, the band still managed to crank out some truly kick ass tunes, some of the band’s strongest to date, in fact.
Lead single “Love is the Drug” was the funkiest the band had ever been, laying down a danceable and solid backing to Ferry’s tales of picking up women. Sample lyric: “I say go/she say yes/ dim the lights/you can guess the rest.” A little silly, perhaps, but it still grooves hard. And it remains one of the band’s most popular singles, second only, probably, to “More Than This.”
But more treasures were to be found deeper into the album. “End of the Line” was a catchy, but fairly standard pop song, while “Sentimental Fool” was a dark and ambient successor to For Your Pleasure‘s creepy “In Every Dream Home a Heartache.” A winding bassline and moaning synthesizers make up the long intro, broken after a couple minutes by Ferry’s croon. Without a typical verse-chorus-verse structure, the song goes in movements, rather than easily identifiable parts. After the intro, verse and rather lengthy chorus, the song climaxes with a swirling, dizzying coda that makes for one of the group’s most surreal and cool moments.
“Whirlwind,” meanwhile is the rocker, the song that just rips through the album like its namesake. Something like this album’s version of “Editions of You,” it’s short and straightforward, something that’s often a rarity on a Roxy album. “She Sells” is a sophisticated disco-pop song that most closely approximates an Elton John/Chic collaboration. And “Both Ends Burning,” the second single ( a first for the band) was a fitting follow-up to “Love Is The Drug,” grooving on a funky bassline and squealing saxophone leads.
Ferry, Mackay, Manzanera and Thompson would all go on to work on their own separate projects for the years following Siren‘s ensuing tour. When they regrouped on 1979′s Manifesto, however, the results were decidedly different. They didn’t rock as hard, everything was much glossier and there was no scantily-clad woman on the cover. Alas, the golden age of Roxy Music had ended. There’s a strong argument for Avalon as a return to greatness, though by then, it really was a different band. Still, Siren marks the last of a spectacular run of albums by one of the UK’s most respected and legendry art rock bands.
Similar albums/Albums Influenced:
Duran Duran – Duran Duran
Japan – Gentlemen Take Polaroids
David Bowie – Station to Station