Following my less than flattering words of yesterday, it would be remiss of me not to allow an opposite point of view to be articulated. In this case, the words are supplied by Friend of Rachel Worth:-
Okay case for the defence – I think you’ve missed some great stuff.
There seems to have been before the last LP a bit of view of Bowie that echoed the “What have the Romans Ever done for Us”, but in his case it is “He’s been shit since Lets Dance and in fact that wasn’t that good anyway”. Admittedly there have been some misfires and glass spiders , duets with Tina Turner , gurning with Mick Jagger , Tin Machine , stabs at Techno were all pretty horrendous. However, there have been moments of magic which , whilst not up there with the best of his 70s output still knocks socks off a lot of what else was around at the time. So here are my 10 for you to give a go or revisit without the ghosts of Ziggy, Aladdin etc.
1) Absolute Beginners – a fantastic song ruined by an awful film. Sinatra crossed with his own Heroes (I didn’t read Heroes at Live Aid at all like you did, I saw it as being much more universal – but then I still maybe naively view the whole thing as magical , flawed yes but magical still). Among lots of stuff that sounds like he was treading water for once a vocal that sounded like he meant it
2) Loving the Alien – I was so disappointed with the LP this came from. The awful Police-lite type reggae on a couple of tracks, a going-through-the- motions Beach Boys cover and that awful Tina Turner duet of the title track Tonight. However the opening track is majestic, hypnotic and epic. Starting the LP off with it only made what was to follow even more of a disappointment.
3) Thursdays Child – He has a habit with later LPs to include one lush ballad on each of them and here is another one from 1999’s Hours (another recording that was referenced as a return to form) . The best song Morrissey never wrote. The rest of the LP is okay even if a bit stodgy in its backing but this is one long melancholic sigh.
4) Pablo Picasso – he can spot a good cover and this is a bit of a mess , but it is a fun mess. The album it came from (2003 Reality his last before the new one) is a mixed bag of sounds and styles from buzzing guitars to jazzy piano.
5) Everyone Says ‘Hi’ – Heathen is probably the best of his later records and if you were going to give one a go it would be this one. Whereas Reality is a an interesting mess, Heathen is one of those proper grown up LPs – adult without ever being AOR. The one bit of light is Everyone Say Hi, a song to his son and the older brother of Kooks.
6) Buddha of Suburbia – I’m sure the BBC couldn’t believe it when he agreed to do the soundtrack for the tv adaptation of Hanif Kureishi’s novel. Often overlooked and little heard it is the sound of someone rediscovering his mojo.
7) Outside – first thing you have to strip away the annoying concept dialogue tracks – wonder how many people who bought the CD have recut it on their mp3 players. There is a sense that in the 90s Bowie has been looking back , seeking out old collaborators to rediscover something. This was Brian Eno’s turn. It has some great songs on it (the industrial slab of Heart’s Filthy Lesson , the jittery We Prick You , the straight forward Strangers When We Meet, the pre-Pet Shop Boys Hello Spaceboy , the frankly- odd Have Not Been To Oxford Town, all of which can hold their heads high in the company of his 70s output) all with interesting backing.
8) Jump They Say – Nile Rogers is all over this slab of polished pop
9) This is Not America – it’s with a jazz fusion guitarist , its got one of those naff pointless key changes to keep things going – but I love it
10) The new LP is a strange one. It has some great moments (Stars Are Out , Dirty Boys , Where Are We Now especially). Maybe not one of the best 12 LPs of the year ( but then not sure any of the nominations can give claim to that any year). What was odd was the complete lack of hype has led to it being over-hyped. I love the fact that relatively no one knew it was coming, an announcement just appeared.
The press then had 2 choices. Having been caught out they could either slag it or praise it hell. Whichever choice they made the column inches and airtime grew and grew. It’s pretty good, runs out of steam a bit – no better than Heathen , but much better than what most other pensioner pop stars have been churning out, and if it had come from a bunch of skinny white boys playing guitars then they would be being hailed as the next big thing.
The best thing are his lyrics and his voice , both of which are dark enough to feel dangerous , well as dangerous as a 66 year old can make you feel. Listen to the LP and you do start to worry about his state of mind… ever the frustrated actor
So there you go , trying not to and failing to damn with the faint praise of “its good but not as good as his old stuff”. There is enough here for a mighty fine spotify playlist, and re-listening to these songs has been much more enjoyable than the work I should be doing.
Note from JC
It was unfair of me to dismiss Absolute Beginners as it’s one of the 6,000 odd tracks on the i-phone. Of the others mentioned, I’m only familiar with a handful – none of Loving The Alien, Buddha of Suburbia and Jump They Say do anything for me.
However FoTR, as much as you had me thinking you had made a decent case you make a very bad error of judgement with the inclusion of This Is Not America. Next thing you’ll be saying Under Pressure is a work of genius!!
Have tracked down some of the tracks you mention:-
mp3 : David Bowie – Everyone Says ‘Hi’
mp3 : David Bowie – Thursday’s Child
mp3 : David Bowie – I Have Not Been To Oxford Town