Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"In Every Dream Home a Heartache"

I've been dropping references to art-school rock from time to time, usually to point out how punk and new wave really weren't the snotty, street-level phenomenon that we all thought they were at the time, but instead a fairly carefully choreographed effort at testing the collective boundaries of post-permissive society. Ten years after "free love", LSD and all that jazz, it seemed the only way to outrage the bourgeoisie was to swear at them. Even the hippies didn't do that...
Anyhow, I didn't really think much of the references to art schools until I rocked through the Rs on my collection and came slap bang up against these guys.
I suppose if you were looking for an exemplar of the whole idea of art students as rock musicians, you could do a whole lot worse than Roxy Music's first two albums (yes, the ones with Brian Eno).
They made a visual as well as aural statement - Bryan Ferry had his immaculate coiffure and louche elegance, Eno looked like Riff-Raff's mild cousin, Phil Manzanera like a biker who'd just had his annual shower, all very eclectic - just like art school.
And so with the sound. From the frantic joyous romp that is "Virginia Plain", the out-to-lunch weirdness of "Ladytron", on through the lively chaos of "Do the Strand" and then...this.
It's a masterpiece in two halves. The first is all menace, sullen glitter and empty wealth: "Open-plan living/Bungalow ranch-style/All of its comforts/Seem so essential." A dangerously seductive mood, half-despairing, half-drunk at the pleasures of excess, quiet and menacing. The story evolves, spins slowly in from its wide-screen view to the story of a man and his inflatable doll. And by the time anger begins to flare ("Inflatable doll/Lover ungrateful/I blew up your body/But you blew my mind"), the song has seemingly built up unsustainable pressure and all hell breaks loose.
Sheer genius. A decade before Adam Ant was pulling the whip out of his valise and getting so physical, Roxy Music had already mapped out the territory.
But because art students back then didn't swear on TV, the bourgeois didn't make a fuss. And by the time Adam Ant was a memory, Roxy were still in business.

2 comments:

natasha said...
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Evil Minx said...

Mmmm. Young Bryan Ferry. Le slurp.