Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Station To Station

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Greetings, Glancers! We hop on the Bowie train today and choo-choo-choose another of his most famous and acclaimed albums – Station To Station.  I’m in a bit of a groove now with Bowie as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last couple of albums I’ve listened to by him. I am concerned now that by choosing to listen to whole albums by a particular artist that said artist is going to die – watch out Madonna, Adams, and Jovi, I guess. With this album, Bowie his Thin White Duke and Berlin phases, and looking at the tracklist (only six songs!) I think I only know two of the songs.

If you’re a regular Glancer, you’ll know that I usually write most of my posts months in advance of actually posting them. At current time of writing, it’s 11th May 2016. I have an unpublished post (at time of writing) on Young Americans, which I wrote shortly before Bowie died. You’ll know by now then that 2016 has been a fairly horrific year for death of icons big and small. I should say that does add a certain poignancy to listening to these albums now, but that shouldn’t factor into me liking them or otherwise. This is going to be the first Bowie album I have listened to since he died in other words. I hope it’s a good’un.

‘Station To Station’. This begins with a lot of hissing and phasing noises flying from ear to ear, and the occasional chugging along tracks before a two note Jaws like melody starts. This is all very ominous and industrial and maddening, and it doesn’t feel coherent until the drums kick in. Even then we have minutes of noise – scratching guitars, dissonance and distortion, and assorted instruments popping in until eventually the vocals join. The vocals are deep in tone and waver ghostly, the beat repetitive and the melody trouncing like clockwork. It isn’t until after the five minute work that a more immediate traditionally melodic section begins. This veers a little too close to the glam rock tone that I don’t enjoy, but there is enough experimentation and weirdness to keep a barrier between the two. I don’t remember this being over ten minutes long. There’s a saucy solo in there somewhere too.

Golden Years‘ is quite a funky one that I know from the Stephen King series of the same name. It’s all quite unusual with the vocals moving from fast to slow, low to high, agitated to drunken. It’s a strange one to try to foot tap to as the beat keeps shifting and an assortment of hand claps and drums come in to mix it up. Again the backing riffs and instrumentation have a monotony (not in a negative sense) which keeps the songs moving in a hypnotic droning fashion. I’m not convinced the final thirty seconds or so are really needed, but I suppose they provide a suitable ending.

Word On A Wing’ string synth sound and lovely piano. Drums and piano and guitar. Nice vocals which build to a crescendo where Bowie lets his voice belt out like he rarely allows. Again there are a few changes in beat and rhythm, but the tone stays true throughout and it all remains quite lovely. The vocals and music meld together to make an emotional whole of the type I haven’t felt much from Bowie in my listening so far. I imagine that his big and long term fans would shed a few tears when playing this one now. Synth and organ for the finish.

TVC 15‘ has a honky tonk feel, that piano and those ‘eh eh oh oh ohs’. A futuristic Country song. Again the song has a trance like monotony and the vocals are particularly manic. I laughed at the ‘transition/transmission’ section as the song literally changes, and then an epic volume and upgraded beat come in to raise the song a few notches. Then it all smooths out after the three minute mark to return to the ‘eh eh oh ohs’. Quite a bizarre song with a puzzling and hypnotic structure all of its own.

Stay‘ opens like it’s going to be heavy rocker to an inspirational sports movie like Rocky. It’s another weird yet effective mixture of funk, disco, rock, and utter chaos. I suspect modern audiences would think he was off his face recording stuff like this. Of course he was, but he had been recording similarly strange works for years. So much of it feels avant garde yet free and unrehearsed, but I think that’s more a testament to the writers and performers. Great guitar work in the middle, naturally great work from everyone but it’s always the guitar I notice, and these antics drift on for the final minutes.

Wild Is The Wind‘is a soft and more traditional song to close the album, though having said that Bowie does go full weirdo for the vocals. It feels like another highly emotionally charged song, especially with every repetition of that title line. And so we have another which is bound to send fans into floods of tears, but what’s with the sudden abrupt end?

A bit of a departure from the previous couple of albums which I have liked. I did like this, and I imagine it would grow on me with more listens but it didn’t have the immediate impact I was hoping for. The handful of emotional songs felt powerful, and the endless groove and fixation on movement was also interesting, and I think the album had some of the best musicianship of the albums I’ve heard so far. Let me know in the comments where this ranks in your list of best Bowie albums, what your favourite songs are, and any other opinions!

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