It has been 40(!) years since the debut album by the influential art/glam/smooth rock outfit Roxy Music, so, naturally it is time for a box set, "The Complete Studio Albums: 1972-1982."
Here is the received narrative: Albums by Roxy Music are divided into three categories of descending quality — those with Brian Eno (the first two: "Roxy Music" and "For Your Pleasure"), those without Eno (the next three: "Stranded," "Country Life," "Siren") and those when they got back together after a hiatus, which are albums with neither Eno nor electric violinist Eddie Jobson ("Manifesto," "Flesh and Blood," "Avalon").
This is both true and false. Roxy started out as weird as they were rockin' and eventually became slicker than either, art students riffing on proggy riffs, an earlier age of glamour and experimental soundscapes. As adventurous as the excellent first two albums sound with Eno's wiggly synths and tapes, the first five really are of a piece (even Eno thinks "Stranded," the first one without him, is the best Roxy album), each one filled with weird solos, stunning pop craft and Bryan Ferry's impossibly louche persona. (Seriously, how has there never been something called Ferry: The Magazine for Men?)
The biggest problem with the final three, post-reunion albums is that where Roxy Music once led, they now followed, ditching most of the experimentation for a comparatively smooth, adult-contemporary sound.
For good and ill, New Romantics took whole pages out of the Roxy playbook from this era.
Still, there are strong moments on both "Manifesto" (the title track, "Dance Away") and the pretty bland "Flesh and Blood" (the amazing "Oh Yeah," sort of an early version of the vaguely melancholy make-out clouds that dominated the epic "Avalon"). The collection also contains a double CD of singles and B-sides. (And while none of this stuff is in the box, those who find themselves on the receiving end of this slab and love what they hear should track down the live album "Viva!" and any BBC/Peel session tracks you can find on the Internet. Bryan thanks you, darling.)
As far as new material goes, the Divine Fits album "A Thing Called Divine Fits" hits stores today. Consisting of Handsome Furs' Dan Boeckner, Spoon's Britt Daniel, and the New Bomb Turks' Sam Brown, Divine Fits played a few well-regarded local shows at the top of the month. (Read Peter Mongillo's story on the band, published Sunday in Life & Arts and online at austin360.com.)
Also look for "The Odessa Tapes," a CD and DVD set of recordings from 1972 that are part of a 40th anniversary celebration of the Flatlanders, as well as Alanis Morissette's "Havoc and Bright Light," electronic artist Matthew Dear's "Beams," rapper Beanie Sigel's "This Time" and a new one from, of all people, the Osmonds, whose "I Can't Get There Without You" is their first studio album in 12 years. I would have guessed longer.
The ongoing Frank Zappa reissue project continues, covering the 1970s with remastered versions of "Waka/Jawaka," "The Grand Wazoo," "Over-Nite Sensation," "Apostrophe (')," "Roxy & Elsewhere," "One Size Fits All," "Zoot Allures," "Bongo Fury," "Studio Tan," "Sleep Dirt," and the tragically-named "Sheik Yerbouti."
The first season of the critically acclaimed Showtime series "Homeland" is out on DVD and Blu-ray today, as are the underseen "Monsieur Lazhar" and the fairly terrible "Battleship." Boutique imprint Criterion has two releases this week: the Who's mod-tastic movie "Quadrophenia" on Blu-ray and "Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone and Other Films by Norman Mailer," collecting the late writer's experimental films.
Former Salon editor-in-chief Joan Walsh's "What's the Matter with White People?: Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was" is in stores today, exploring how the white middle class of the postwar years got to be that way.
"Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace," by New York journalist D.T. Max, is one of the year's most anticipated reads among Wallace's devout cult (not to mention anyone interested in late-20th century literature — "Infinite Jest" is 26 years old). A review of "Every Love Story ..." will appear Sunday in the Insight & Books section.
Contact Joe Gross at email@example.com and 912-5926.