Roxy Music, Siren

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

Where Country Life introduced Roxy Music to FM audiences, 1975's Siren opened the band up to AM radio listeners via the song that remains its most familiar, "Love is the Drug." As always, Ferry needs to score, and he streamlines his lyrics into urbane images and Motown-like catchphrases that sound as good as they mean: "Lumber up, limbo down/ The locked embrace, the stumble around." Swinging on co-writer Mackay's sax hook and a syncopated dance beat that evokes the bordellos, nightclubs, and singles bars in which the lyric is situated, this is Roxy's most uncharacteristically direct track, yet also its most quintessential.

Roxy’s leanest and most rhythmic record

Flanked by "Love Is the Drug" and its companion song "Just Another High" (a slower reprise of the chiming guitars introduced by Country Life's "Prairie Rose"), Siren is the first Roxy album all about love, and, often indirectly, Ferry's ongoing relationship with its cover model Jerry Hall. It eases up on Manzanera's guitar, but unapologetically asserts John Gustafson's bass — here a fusion of funk and Paul McCartney-esque melody — and Paul Thompson's drums, which are now at their most R&B-influenced. The result is Roxy's leanest and most rhythmic record.


Roxy Music

As a result, it's also the band's least eclectic. Eddie Jobson's country fiddle on "End of the Line" is the sole stylistic departure; other elements are grounded in the R&B that animates the entire disc. Balancing this sharpness are some of Ferry's smoothest melodies. In the early days, Ferry got by on phrasing, delivery, and wit: It's hard to imagine anyone but him doing early songs like "Re-Make/Re-Model." Grace Jones and others have made their own mark on "Love Is the Drug" because he's here writing substantial tunes to subvert.

Ferry's also become a far more finessed singer, and the sincerity of these Siren songs is striking. Its ostensibly most unassuming cut, "Could It Happen to Me?" is upon closer inspection among its most remarkable. Ferry finally pulls back the curtain of lounge lizard cool to reveal that when it comes to love, actually expressing it and asking for it in return, this Casanova is actually an insecure pussycat desperately in need of reassurance. Two years later, Hall dumps him for Mick Jagger. The facade returns.