Roxy Music's songs are about the decadent idle rich who are bored with life—but enough about Judge Victor Valdivia.
"Oh oh catch that buzz
-- "Love is the Drug"
Rock 'n' Roll has never really seen the likes of Roxy Music, before or even since; no other band combined so many disparate elements so seamlessly. Since emerging with their self-titled first album in 1972, Roxy Music was simultaneously retro and futuristic, elegant and crude, arty and guttural. Singer/songwriter Bryan Ferry dressed in stylish suits and wrote intricate songs with ironic lyrics about the idle rich, crooning them with as much ennui as he could muster. The remaining band members, however, frequently played his songs with a ferocious punch. Guitarist Phil Manzanera cranked out vicious shards of metallic noise, saxophonist Andy Mackay blasted raucous solos, drummer Paul Thompson hit as hard as Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, and synthesizer player Brian Eno (who would leave the band to become a major musical force in his own right) added unearthly electronic noises. Roxy Music played like a futuristic version of a '50s lounge act, with a striking visual edge that took David Bowie's vision of glam to an ironic extreme. In the process, they laid the groundwork for virtually every major British artist of the late-'70s and '80s, including many punk, new wave, and modern rock artists.
That's why More Than This: The Story of Roxy Music is something of a disappointment. It's a reasonably coherent and entertaining history of the band from their early days to their breakup in 1983, and subsequent reunion in 2001. It is not, however, remotely comprehensive. There is a lot that's left out and a lot that's added here that's just superfluous. At only 52 minutes, it's just too skimpy to really tell the whole story.
Much of the problem is that, while the original members of Roxy Music are all interviewed here (even the normally reclusive Eno), none have much to say. Ferry, never a revealing interview, barely speaks for more than a sentence or two at a time and his appearances on the entire disc are scanty. Eno is surprisingly garrulous, but once his part of the story ends, namely when he leaves the band in 1973 after their second album, he doesn't appear much. The remaining members discuss what they can, but because they were each only a part of the overall vision (which was mainly Ferry's) they really can't fill in much more than a few details here and there. Too much of the disc is taken up with interviews with rock critics and other musicians who cite Roxy as an influence, including U2's Bono, Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones, and goth-punk siren Siouxsie Sioux, amongst others. These are just not that interesting, since they mostly repeat each other: Roxy was an unusual and influential band, they changed the sound and look of British rock, and so on. This doesn't add much to what fans want to know about the band.
The DVD isn't bad, necessarily. The opening section on how Ferry's art-school education led to how he defined Roxy's look is an interesting aspect of the band that's rarely explored. All of Eno's interviews are worth watching; he has plenty to say about his time with the band, which only lasted a couple of years. It's especially fascinating to hear his take on why his departure from the band was probably inevitable from the beginning. There's also some footage of the band reunited and working in the studio for the first time since 1982, even including Eno. Still, there are still too many holes in this documentary. Why did Roxy split up between 1976 and 1979? How did violinist/keyboardist Eddie Jobson replace Eno in 1973, and why didn't he rejoin the band in 1979? How were the two of the band's most important albums, Country Life (1974) and Siren (1975), written and recorded? There is little here about any of that. More than anything, it's the lack of in-depth discussion about the band's music, apart from a few key songs like "Love is the Drug" and "Avalon," that really makes More Than This less useful than it could have been.
The bonus features are interesting, but only fill in some gaps slightly. There are some extended interviews (28:54) that address Roxy's album art, the fact that the band had different bassists on each album, and a slightly more extended interview with Jobson. These are all worth watching, but they still leave too many questions unanswered. There are also three bonus performances filmed in London on July 22, 2006, from Roxy's recent reunion tour. The three songs—"Both Ends Burning," "Editions of You," and "Do the Strand"—are very good, but they either should have been augmented with performances from the band's classic era, or they should have been excised in favor of more interview footage that filled in the holes left in the main feature.
Technically, the DVD is up to Eagle Rock's usual high standards. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is solid, although some of the archival footage does show its age. The main feature and bonus interviews both come with a good Dolby stereo mix, but the bonus songs also come with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Surround mixes. These are impressive, although not quite as loud as Eagle Rock's mixes usually are.
Nonetheless, there's no fault with Eagle Rock's presentation; it's the content that's a letdown. Here is one of the most important and influential bands in rock history, one that deserves to have its story told. Roxy Music fans have been waiting a long time for a definitive account of the band's music and career, but sadly, More Than This is simply too short and skimpy to fit the bill. The new interviews and footage do make it of value to fans, but. because it shortchanges too many important musical aspects of the band's career, it's simply not as good as it should have been. Newcomers would do better to start with one of Roxy's essential albums such as Roxy Music, Country Life, or 1982's Avalon instead.
Not guilty, but more by virtue of the subject rather than the execution.
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