Album: Bryan Ferry

Frantic, Virgin
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The Independent Culture

Bryan Ferry's latest is a a mixed bag, and not a bad mix, at that: a couple more Dylan covers ("It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" and "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright"), a few more essays in Avalon-style erotic languor, a song about Marilyn Monroe, an ill-fitting sortie into Cajun territory for Leadbelly's "Goodnight Irene", and even a Richard the Lionheart song with crumhorn, virginal, harp and recorder ("Ja Nun Hons Pris").

The familiar elegant, jet-set ambience is in full effect on "Hiroshima", a romance that whisks us from Versailles to Chiang Mai to Berlin to Hiroshima, and on "San Simeon", an erotic fantasia presumably inspired by William Randolph Hearst's ghastly palace, with lyrics to match: "You are the princess, my wand doth wake you/ Fantasy playmate candlelight lover/ Coffee-table culture full-colour pages." Sometimes it's hard to tell when Ferry's taking the mickey, so completely does he project into the brittle emptiness of this rarefied world; here, he teeters on the cusp with characteristic poise. Less predictable is "Cruel", a rare foray into social commentary, in which verses about Native Americans, the poor and lonely, and ecological concerns are linked by the hookline "Why in the world are you so cruel?" – as if Ferry needed to view such matters through a romantic's glass to bring them into focus.