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Olympia
Bryan Ferry Olympia
Released 22 October 2010
Producer(s) Bryan Ferry, Rhett Davies
Label Virgin Records
Length 49:02
Genre Pop, rock
Website www.bryanferry.com
20

Anticipated as a Roxy Music reunion album, Olympia sees the light of day as a Bryan Ferry solo effort. In real terms, this can’t hide the fact that Ferry’s old band provided the music to these ten tracks, but allowing him to take all the credit for it can at least spare them some of the shame of responsibility. And they’re not the only ones to allow him to offer himself up as a willing scapegoat. The musicians who collaborated on this album provide a who’s who of respected talent. Dave Gilmour is here. So is Johnny Greenwood. So is Flea. So is Mani. So are Groove Armada. All of them make their excuses and leave, leaving Bryan Ferry in the spotlight, in the stocks.

No, Olympia is not what it should be. With such a stellar line-up it should have sounded bold and far-reaching. Instead it sounds like the backing track for a fondue party in 1980s suburbia hosted by a man who thinks Tia Maria is a sophisticated drink. Ferry’s persona feels lost in translation. It’s to be surmised that he wishes to portray a lovelorn bard in the mould of Leonard Cohen. Like Leonard, however, ‘mould’ seems apt. Ferry’s heartbroken croon sounds affected and creepy. It brings to mind the character he played in Breakfast on Pluto, Mr Silky String; a sinister, sexual predator. Indeed, the second track on Olympia, 'Alphaville', sounds as though it spends its nights hanging around public toilets.

"I wanna be where strangers meet" he confides during 'Tender is the Night'; before telling us he "feels misunderstood". Bryan Ferry is sixty-five. What on earth is a sixty-five year old man doing singing like a pathetic adolescent? Has he learned nothing since he was nineteen? It sounds insincere. Maybe it’s supposed to. Or it could just be another mistake from someone wishing to portray himself as a denizen of a lonely demimonde, but who exists in a real world of fox-hunting, Countryside Alliance marches, and  Nazi iconography (he wasn’t the only one to praise ‘Leni’ Riefenstahl and Albert Speer on ‘artistic grounds’, but that doesn’t make it any less cretinous).

The music that accompanies Olympia gels with his self-image. It is dull, soulless; despite the orchestra of gifted musicians, it manages to make you wince. 'BF Bass (Ode To Olympia)' provides the kind of rubbery bass-spanking last heard in lieu of a cymbal crash at the end of a Seinfeld sketch. A kind of cheap, risible mood music oozes though most of the tracks, most notably on 'Reason Or Rhyme'.

Music has branched out into wonderful, breath-taking new worlds since Roxy Music pranced under a disco ball. Times have changed, and few people wish to sympathise with a rich bore who "feels misunderstood".

So what if he is?

- Paul McGranaghan