April, 3th 2008 review:
With its unforgettable hook, Oxygene led the synthesizer revolution of the ’70s. Jean Michel Jarre tells why he’s bringing it back.
Released in 1976, Oxygene was a sensation: futuristic Continental machine music, not so very different from what Kraftwerk were up to in Dusseldorf at the time, but a whole lot more popular. It sounded wide-eyed and innovative – and seemed to signal a coming era where mankind and technology would synchronise.
Seemingly to be found in every household at the time, the album was a strange, otherworldly artefact. Each unnamed track was numbered: Oxygene I, Oxygene II and so on. But the one that really stood out was the fourth one. It was awash with whooshing Hawkwind-style spacey noises, yet it pulsed with ultra-modern electronic energy.
More importantly, Oxygene IV contained one of the catchiest synth motifs ever: beew ba-boo-boo beew. These five notes made Oxygene a huge, unlikely success story: an instrumental, electronic, ecological concept album that became a global monster.
“Yes,” says Jarre when I catch up with him in France, “30 years ago there weren’t so many people thinking about the planet. But I’ve always been interested in that, not necessarily in a political way but in a poetic, surrealistic way.”
In 2008, Oxygene still sounds cutely retro-futuristic. Jarre is touring the album in Europe and last Sunday played it in its entirety at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The accompanying CD and DVD (which EMI Australia has yet to release, but is available from online stores) incorporate the old analogue technology of the original album.