There was a four year gap between their last album, Siren, and this reunion effort, one that suspiciously sounds closer to a Bryan Ferry solo than a Roxy Music project. Siren was a coherent and enthralling merger of their pop aspirations and their art-rock freak-outs. “Love is the Drug” was enough of a manifesto of Bryan Ferry’s lounge-lizard persona to not require a follow-up called Manifesto, especially if it lacks the specificity and vibrancy of that self-created personality.
Manifesto’s not bad, just generically listenable. There’s a handful of good songs surrounded by a lot of forgettable ones. This is clearly Ferry in transition as his pop persona began as the cool, cynical romantic, then transferred into a lounge-lizard with aspirations of the jet set lifestyle, and wound-up as a member of the glitterati and something of an emotional sphinx projecting detached love and lust at a remove. These growing pains are evident in the album’s inconsistency.
While this transition into disco-ready pop music maestros leaves Manifesto as one of their more easily accessible albums it also has the unintended effect of being an experience you won’t repeat too often. It’s an entertaining and pleasant experience, but I come to Roxy Music looking to be challenged and enjoying their weirdness, their severe humor, their excessive commitment to glamour. “Manifesto” is something of a false start as it plays like the weirdness of prior albums will still be present, perhaps a bit subdued but still accounted for. Then things go generically New Wave with “Trash” and the rest of the album is uneven from there.
What I miss most is the melodrama and emotional intensity of albums like Stranded and Country Life. You could hear the cracks in that self-created mythology, and the intensity of his passions, both lusty and romantic. Manifesto is oddly chaste in comparison, but not their worst album. After all, “Angel Eyes” and “Dance Away” are two indelible moments of pop artistry that successfully revive Ferry’s persona and clearly indicate where it’s going by the time we reach Avalon and his massive solo singles like “Slave to Love.” Roxy Music still have ideas and clear dreams of pop dominance, but it would take a few more tries before this incarnation of the band would hit it out of the park.
DOWNLOAD: “Dance Away”