Review of Driving Me Wild by Bryan Ferry
I had my Bryan Ferry / Roxy Music epiphany back in 2003. I’d always marked him / them down as just a bit too smooth, working too hard to appear that they weren’t working hard at all. The slick playboy persona grated with my punk rock ideals and the way that their edgy arty rock had mutated into slick white soul didn’t interest me.
In 2003 Sofia Coppola directed “Lost In Translation”, using the Roxy song ‘More Than This’ to score a key part of the movie. In an interview, Coppola mentioned that ‘Avalon’, their huge 1982 album, was the perfect 5am record, the best thing to put on when you’d come in, slightly merry from a long night, just as the sun was rising. Intrigued, I played it and she was right; it straddles that divide between the excesses of the night and the promise of the new dawn perfectly. I went back and revisited the Roxy Music catalogue and became a fan. I may not be a suave California man-about-LA, but listening to Ferry can make me feel like one, and that’s not a bad feeling at all.
‘Driving Me Wild’ is the second single from the current album, “Avonmore”, Ferry’s 15th solo album. I was intrigued at Ferry’s new material; his sleep-tinged cover of Robert Palmer’s “Johnny and Mary” was a big favourite of mine on Todd Terje’s album last year, (also included on ‘Avonmore’) and I was curious as to whether it heralded a new direction.
The good news is that ‘Avonmore’ does what classic Roxy and Ferry did – it evokes a unique atmosphere, uptown and funky, classy. Ferry’s voice has changed, in a surprising manner. The mannered soul vocals have been superseded by an older, more aged sound; it’s a change, and it takes some getting used to, but overall it’s not negative.
‘Driving Me Wild’ begins with pops, wails, and the first use of scratching I’ve heard in a decade. It’s a message that if there was a kitchen sink to be found it would have been put to good use, because this track uses the whole battery of production and instrumentation. There’s an awful lot going on. The bass and the keyboard resolve and a pulse starts, a driving beat, and as befits ferry collaborators Niles Rodgers and Johnny Marr, out comes the funk.
This is a dance record, pure and simple. If ‘Avalon’ is for 5am, ‘Driving Me Wild’ is for 1:30am when the drink’s kicking in, the lights are low and the object of your desire is pursing their lips at you just a foot away. You can’t not dance listening to it – family members are shimmying in and out of the room as I write this review.
The lyrics are pure frustration on Ferry’s part. He’s the unlucky lover, the undesirable, fretting over a departed amour. Whilst the lyrics are “You’re Driving Me Wild”, he’s not being driven wild with lust, but with anger. The love of his life has left him again, and the song is set at that exact point in a relationship breakdown where realisation is just beginning to set in that you’ll never see that person again.
‘Driving Me Wild’ really won me over. From the wistful keyboard, to the Rodgers patented wakkachakka guitar, to Ferry’s broken lover vocals, it’s assembled extraordinarily well, evoking classic Roxy Music and an emphatic new vocal direction for rock’s coolest geezer.
You can hear it at http://po.st/DMWYT.
Review by Steve Noble
Reviewer’s note: The sound mix at the Youtube link above is low quality and very murky. I’ve listened to the track on Spotify and it’s a little better but far from perfect. I’m guessing that the CD, LP or a FLAC file will yield best results. It seems a shame to squander such classy production values on an MP3, so treat yourself to physical media for this one.