Containing a virtual grab bag of styles, Siren is definitely a product of its time. 1975 was the year when musical tastes were changing rapidly, from laidback country folk to the adrenaline rush of disco and punk. Now that Roxy Music was deemed acceptable by American radio listeners, they felt free to dabble in as many of these genres as possible. From the Old West piano bar feel of “End Of The Line” to the jerky funk of the dance floor staple “Love Is The Drug” (their sole Top 40 hit in the U.S.), Siren aimed to please boatloads, and the result nearly achieves this ambitious goal.
The light perkiness of most of the tracks is the one element that sets Siren apart from other Roxy releases. Gone is the daring experimentalism, as well as the broody darkness, the glittery glam stage costumes, and elaborate liner note packaging. This version of Roxy Music is scaled way back, almost to the point of bare bones minimalism. Longtime producer Chris Thomas seemed intent on bringing the MUSIC front and center this time around, so kudos to him for knowing what people should really be focusing on.
Even a synth number like “Both Ends Burning” ends up sounding like a “Dream Weaver” retread. So much for that attempt at being cutting-edge, right? Still, it has more going for it than the boring ballad “Could It Happen To Me.” Boring is certainly a word I never thought I would use to describe a Roxy Music song, so this is a first. Maybe it’s good the band decided to take a long break before recording their next album. Actually, the thought that kept crossing my mind while listening to Siren was, “The band sounds burned out and are fresh out of new ideas.”
There are some Middle Eastern sounds that make “Nightingale” soar and “Just Another High” ends things on a high note, so Siren really doesn’t have any glaring negatives to complain about. It’s just we’ve come to expect much more from them. What this release demonstrates is that as long as you have a strong beginning and then wow ‘em in the end, you’ll have a hit. Had they worked more on the three tracks in the middle, well, then this would be an album worth celebrating. Unfortunately, it stands beside For Your Pleasure as a second-rate effort. Roxy Music is all about tone and impact, so when they took the unprecedented step of producing their own record four years later, all bets were off on what direction they would go in next.
One thing was for certain, they would do everything possible to never be boring again.