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Friday, Nov. 2, 2007

LISTENING POST

IN PRINT

"Re-make/Re-model Art, Pop, Fashion and the Making of Roxy Music 1953-1972" By Michael Bracewell


Roxy Music were a powerful force in 1970s pop, with their art-school roots an important aspect of their influential style. It is with a background of British Pop artists such as Richard Hamilton and David Hockney in mind that writer Michael Bracewell attempts to tell the story behind Roxy Music's formation.

At first, singer Bryan Ferry comes across as a rather anonymous figure, peripheral to the stories of his art-school friends as they absorb themselves in photographing coffee adverts and hanging out with Andy Warhol. Here, "Re-make/Re-model" is at its weakest, with Bracewell's background as a writer of artists' catalog texts overwhelming his attempts to tell a story — the first 150 pages are little more than a repetitive series of art analyses peppered with dry, academic terminology. Worse are the interviewees, who talk tediously about shirt cuffs and the famous people they once met.

In contrast, Brian Eno's early life, surrounded by a menagerie of typically English eccentrics, is by far the most interesting part of the book. His interviews are peppered with witty observations and a sense of the absurd — at one point he explains how he taught himself to spontaneously vomit in order to avoid eating school meals, and as a result feels his life-forming memories were confined to the post-lunch period.

"Re-make/Re-model" is partially successful in that it accurately pins down the conceptual and artistic background from which Roxy Music emerged. The vivid picture it paints of an art scene obsessed with fashion and superficiality is mirrored in the way the book fixates on issues of style and shies away from any real insight into the people. Problems arise in the way Bracewell name-drops artists and simply assumes knowledge of their work. As well, there are almost no pictures to provide context (a major omission in a book so focused on art).

"Re-make/Re-model" ultimately fails to capture the energy and vitality that really made the 1960s Pop Art scene so vibrant, and it is this aspect that was the key to Roxy Music's enduring success as both artists and pop musicians.



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