- Sat 18th Dec

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Indrajit Hazra

There is only one person I know who can make a song about immaculate virtues sound like a celebration of sleaze. It’s Bryan Ferry. Right from his Roxy Music days, Ferry’s furry girl-on-the-carpet-my-tie-undone voice has driven through various styles from glam rock, Sinatra-song and even Dylan songs
in his masterful Dylanesque (2007). With Olympia, he delivers a luscious, pulsating orb.

Talking about the sigh-sleaze sound,  in ‘You can dance’, we are guided into a low-lit high-life penitentiary where sins are solved by gulps of gin and come-on lines (which is what this song really is: one long, hypnotic come-on). The chugga-chugga guitars of ‘Alphaville’ makes shimmy moves in time with Ferry’s almost monotonous but strangely tuneful whispers. He teams up with the Scissor Sisters in ‘Heartache by numbers’ and sounds a dirgelike note as he sings: “I live for the moment/ I long for the day/ You walk in my garden/ You lie in my shade”. This could be Count Dracula pining for his long dead beloved wife.

The piano bar comes to life in ‘Me oh my’, that sounds a bit too lush even  by Ferry standards. I treat it as an introduction of sorts to the dramatic ‘Shameless’. Anything that has the virus-like horse hooves sound has my attention. But add to that firm line the world’s most sophisticated singing voice teaming up with Groove Armada’s terrifying groovy sound and a line that goes, “In a shameless world/ Rock’n’roll desire”, I’m hooked, line, methadone and sinker.

Ferry overplays his hand in his cover of Tim Buckley’s ‘Song to  the siren’, holds steady while singing the old Traffic song, ‘No face, no name, no number’ (here it sounds like a song you’d hear at a beach bar in Goa). As far as covers on this album goes, Ferry takes a stab at the John Lennon-Elton John number, ‘Whatever gets you thru the night’, and while he gets lotsa points for making it sound ‘his own’, he reall does fatally stab the song to death. Ferry does some damage control in the final track, Elvis’s ‘One night’, the warble of the dead, fat burger King suiting the honey’n’scotch of the living Ferry in his tux. Olympia (with its reference to édouard Manet’s gorgeous painting of the same name courtesy Kate Moss on the CD’s cover and liner pages) is half a great album that sees one of pop music’s most famous stylists peep his well-combed head out of the box in partially controlled disarray.

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