Monday, May 14, 2018

Do You Think I Meant Country Matters?

By 1974, Glam had reached its apex. Bowie had shed Ziggy and was immersed in cocaine and 1984, having truly become the strung out alien rock star that Ziggy Stardust prophesied. The music was no less rich and gorgeous (indeed Diamond Dogs is a stunning album, combining the best elements of both Ziggy and Aladdin Sane), but Bowie would soon be off to his next incarnation (the Thin White Duke and The Man Who Fell to Earth). Bolan had found his niche in the UK but, with the exception of minor hits in "Metal Guru," and "Get it On (Bang a Gong)" had failed in the key American market. Many in glam (from Sparks to The Sweet) had been stung by the contention that the genre was all flash and free of substance.

Roxy Music took that at face value and took it upon themselves to rectify the criticism by creating a detailed, complicated work that presented glam values in succinct terms; out of it came the middle finger Country Life, one of the most underrated albums of the 70s. The title Country Life comes from an elitist coffee-table magazine similar to Architectural Digest in America; a spread (excuse the pun) in Country Life was a sign that one had "made it" in society. With real style and parody, Roxy’s fourth album lampooned the magazine by replacing the elegant country homes and socialites in riding gear with two, nearly nude, heavily made up models making the sort of pun of which Shakespeare would have been proud: amalgamating cunt and country, tree and bush. There is a semblance of sexuality and the high and vulgar life of the rich and famous simultaneously. It is pure Shakespeare:

Hamlet: Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
Ophelia: No, my lord.
Hamlet: I mean, my head upon your lap?
Ophelia: Ay, my lord.
Hamlet: Do you think I meant country matters?

While Bowie was conjuring up Diamond Dogs, Roxy's Country Life was varied, excessive and acidic. It was also the end of an era. Roxy would trade in the glam for a bit of their own "Country Life," reinventing themselves both thematically and musically; indeed a 1974 prelude to the 80s.

Country Life is another wonderfully diverse collection from Roxy that runs the gamut from rock to funk to country-pop. Everything sounds 100% natural and organic, particularly for so many divergent pop styles to be together in the same place. It's not awful for musical diversity to stick out like a sore thumb; often makes things interesting. But to have that diversity come together into a whole is a creature all it's own. It makes for the best jazz,the best rock and you really couldn't have funk and later hip-hop without the Roxy catalyst. Hmm, and not in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.