Thursday, 1 January 2015

Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure (1973)

Arguing against the sort of cultural relativism by which an episode of  She-Ra: Princess of Power may be considered equal to anything ever committed to celluloid by Stanley Kubrick, my mother suggested that for any sentiment or observation one may care to share, there will be better and worse ways by which to express it, and in certain cases, a single optimum way. She used this argument to support her belief that certain ideas discussed in Shakespeare cannot be found discussed with such eloquence anywhere else and thus represent the highest form of the art regardless of whether or not you happen to like Shakespeare. Having finally recovered from deep feelings of inadequacy inspired by what such a system of values may say about my beloved collection of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic DVDs, I have come to realise that she's probably right. This, I would suggest, means that For Your Pleasure really is one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded, and if not the greatest then it's at least top two - the other one being either 8-Way Santa or Infrared Riding Hood - never could quite decide between those two.

I know the fucker's now over forty years old, but it still has the sharp edge of something recorded yesterday, possibly through Roxy Music having sort of stepped sideways and removed themselves from anything that could be identified as a rock continuum. They were of course lumped in with glam rock - some might say epitomised the form - but I never could quite square what they did with all those Double Diamond guzzling bricklayers wearing their birds' green eye-shadow and burping woah woah woah I'm back on Top of the Pops. Roxy Music felt more like pop art, but pop art done properly with style and attention to detail, as differentiated from all that commodified crap Andy Warhol used to splash around with all the choreography of a chimp's tea party. Style, yes - there was some sort of art deco thing going on here; not so much style over content as style as content. Listen closely and most of the tracks on For Your Pleasure resemble compositions more than songs in the traditional sense, particularly the extended freak outs vaguely invoking Pink Floyd indulgence but sharper and colder in form, more like the work of Neu or Faust or one of the German groups. Probably more than anyone who came before, Roxy Music were making art, something a million miles from the sweaty boozepit in which all the usual old hairies were trudging out their fuzz-metal version of Robert Johnson. Some of it sounds so mannered that it made even David Bowie at his most cross-eyed sound like Lieutenant Pigeon. This was the opposite of ELO.

I dislike the cultural retrofetishisation of the 1970s not least because it keeps bringing back the turds it took us a whole fucking decade to mash around the s-bend with a sink splodger. It giggles and expects us to listen to the Rubettes on the grounds of it being funny how they all wore those matching suits and caps, and it washes over just how different Roxy Music were to everything else at the time; and that without them - even more so than Bowie - there would have been no Adam & the Ants, Siouxsie & the Banshees, any of that angular postpunk racket, cold wave or whatever the boutique collectors' labels are calling it this month.

For Your Pleasure is as good as it will ever get.

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