#336 : Avalon, Roxy Music
I didn’t realize that I didn’t really like this record until my boyfriend mentioned offhandedly that he found it beautiful. “Really?” I said, surprised by my own reaction. These days, I try to approach every record trying to find something good about it. I always know when I love something because I can’t stop playing it, even after I review it. (Funnily, my Spotify Wrapped this year is just a monument to albums on the RS 500 list that I couldn’t stop playing. It’s about 50% Merle Haggard. Also, “Hook” by Blues Traveler is in my top 3. You see why Roxy Music doesn’t appeal to me.)
But I try to treat every record like someone that loves it. I mean, clearly someone does.
The RS blurb for this one is woeful, a freaking word salad. “Horny but mature?” Please. They might mention that this band featured Brian Eno (until it didn’t), or that lead singer Bryan Ferry wrote most of these as “short stories” on the Irish coast. They could mention that the band had dwindled down to three permanent members. They could mention the fact that nearly all the music was written in-studio, which led to happy little accidents like the scarily high-pitched backing vocals on “Avalon” from late Haitian singer Yanick Etienne.
They do mention that the band recorded this at the same Bahamanian studio where Bob Marley recorded. Still.
My favorite thing about this record was the sheer drama, which goes beyond gothic synth-pop into sci-fi cinema. “While My Heart Is Still Beating” is basically “Careless Whisper” in space, and “True to Life” comes straight from 2001. “Take a Chance With Me” is like if R.E.M. scored a horror movie.
Ferry’s vocals are another highlight, ranging from hollow and high on lead single “More Than This” to uber low on “To Turn You On.” And the million-pound chorus of “The Main Thing”? MGMT wishes they had this (Andrew VanWyngarden is still a cutie though…)
I think the thing I struggled with the most was the sense of desolation that’s best on display in “The Space Between.” There are times when Roxy Music is great fun, and then there are times when Roxy Music sounds like every depressed British band ever, which is apparently the one flavor of goth I can’t get into. That said, there’s just enough edgy-electronica stuff here to keep me interested.
Minute-And-A-Half-Long Instrumentals That Are Pretty and Fine But Also Absolutely Unnecessary: “India” and “Tara.”