If There Is Something
Roxy Music, 1972
Roxy Music, 1972
We’ve had the kaleidoscopic rock n’ roll apocalypse of Remake/Remodel and the sci-fi featurama of Ladytron. Now, third tune in, If There Is Something shows yet another side to Roxy’s multi-facetted personality.
It starts off straight enough like a shit-kicker country lilt but when Andy Mackay’s processed sax solo takes centre stage, we know we’re not in Kansas anymore.
We’ve dissolved into a gloomy, subterranean ballroom, speckled only with light from the revolving glitterball, with Mackay’s purring notes as the guide through the alternating, haunted states of “dreamworld & realworld” as Simon Puxley’s sleevenotes has it.
The solo isn’t the thing - Mackay’s playing was never about demi-gods or virtuoso displays.
It’s the sound.
Mackay, transmuted by Eno’s alchemy, plays emptiness, sings about the last bus home; memories of steamy clinches; smooth leather and synthetic vinyl - the melding point where upholstery becomes irrevocably stitched into expectation; smouldering passions barely kept in check. Then from 56 - 1.17 all that pent-up yearning ecstatically subsides into passion all spent.
Producer Peter Sinfield sometimes get stick for the rawness of the album but in the rough and ready room at Command Studios, he’s creating a portal through which we slip in beside them, up close to savour the heat that comes off Roxy; burning and brilliant, dazzled by their own incandescence.
From 1.17 Paul Thompson's jackhammer bass drum and cracking snare clatters and snaps against far-away walls; Ferry's mechanistic piano chords desperately hold onto a pattern whilst Graham Simpson’s bass nervously strides and stalks.
Twenty seconds go by.
Tick-tock. Just the drums. Just the bass. Just the piano.
Twenty seconds. Giving the faithful time to get in line, building up an entrance, working the crowd. It’s a slice of meta-time that’s both pure and pure showbiz.
Wait for it.
When Ferry’s vocals burst in at 1.37 it’s a scalding baptism, freakish and unsettling, but utterly magnificent. In the instant after Ferry’s voice slices and dices the dreamy ambience, with “Shake your hair, girl with your ponytail/takes me right back”, we’re catapulted from cavernous ballrooms into the close-mic bittersweet interior reverie of “When you were young”.