Greetings, Glancers! Last time out I quite enjoyed Bowie’s Tin Machine debut – a band which promoted a much heavier sound than most of what Bowie had released until that point. Lets hope this is more of the same, or an improvement. Now that I know a little more about the band after going in bare-back last time, I have been looking forward to getting to grips with this one. Lets do this.
‘Baby Universal‘ baby baby baby, ssshhhwung baby baby. Big drums. More babies. Bowie. It’s not quite as heavy as the previous album but definitely in the traditional rock vein, with a slight industrial slant, particularly in the guitar sustain. The drums are particularly frantic. The vocals are trad. Bowie. Good opening track, not great, not bad.
‘One Shot‘ sounds very much like the opening of a later My Vitriol track. Softer, yet mainstream melodies and structure like the first track. This one evokes 80s images in my head. The guitar solo breaches mainstream barriers. Like the opener, I feel that this would appeal to a wider audience than much of Bowie’s solo stuff thanks to the easy melodies, but they’re not exactly hits with huge hooks. An extended drum and guitar climax bonanza.
‘You Belong In Rock And Roll‘ has an ominous throbbing bass and beat before the drums kick in and make it sound like a power ballad. There’s still a sinister undercurrent in the tone. Bowie goes low with his verse vocals to heighten the atmosphere. The chorus raises the vocals moderately and offers some interesting dissonant instrumentation.
‘If There Was Something‘ is a Roxy Music cover. I don’t think I know the original, but then I was never a fan of them. It moves at a fair lick and has some more scorching guitar twiddling, but it isn’t the heaviest or most adventurous. It’s fun if a little inconsequential, but I don’t mind it.
‘Amlapura‘ continues the ‘not quite hard rock’ approach, with an acoustic intro backed by distant electric soloing. The verse guitars remind me of Zep’s Tangerine. The structure and vocals leave a dreamy trail. The song gets a little heavier, a little dreamier after the first chorus. It gets a little too repetitive towards the end but it’s short enough that we can overlook this.
‘Betty Wrong‘ feels 80s again, thanks to that bass and sax. It has a touch of that 80s atmosphere I’m always going on about. The riffs and melodies don’t seem to match, giving a nice disconnected twist. The chorus is pure pop, in a good way. It’s another brief track. It’s been a while since I listened to the first album but I remember it being much heavier than everything here. Nice closing solo to fade out.
‘You Can’t Talk‘ starts out with some scratchy shredding and rumbling drums before Bowie begins rapping or something. This is much more experimental and is quite amusing. It doesn’t work but it certainly isn’t crap. Much of it is enjoyable and interesting.
‘Stateside‘ sounds like a bad 80s shower scene, with someone (male or female) perving on someone (male or female). Or maybe an advert for chocolate. Is that Bowie singing? Doesn’t sound like it. No, he’s on backing duty here. It’s a bit slow and droopy. Of course the lyrics mirror this, seems satirical. And of course they then throw in a face-melter. Of course the weakest song so far would be the longest.
‘Shopping For Girls‘ merges acoustic with electric lead lines – a little bit of Iron Maiden plagiarism going on? There’s the 80s atmosphere again. Melodies okay, a little dull but singable.
‘A Big Hurt‘ brings the metal. A crunching, high volume opening bombast followed by thrash style chugging and a Nirvana esque fuzz rhythms attack. Like many Bowie tracks it feels at first listen like it’s all over the place, but a quick clearing of the mind and focus finds consistency and form.
‘Sorry‘ opens with a promising ascending series of chords and unearthly sensual brass. Bowie does a great job with the vocals and the whole thing is highly charged with feeling.
‘Goodbye Mr Ed‘ is a name I feel I’ve heard before. It’s the closing track as I understand the next song is an instrumental hidden track. There’s a sense of positive energy in this one, but it’s quite tame rock musically.
‘Hammerhead‘ is a bit of fast paced jamming, drums and guitars and sex all shredding wildly together – feels like it could have been an intro to something.
I’d need to listen to both Tin Machine albums again to be sure, but my first thoughts are that this is a step down. It’s still good and there are a few songs I’d like to delve into deeper, but it also doesn’t feel as aggressive. Maybe there was a backlash to the first album and they decided to tone it down? I don’t see Bowie giving in to such pressures. Still, it’s an okay album which I understand may be divisive, though this time around I would say it’s not heavy enough to appeal to the metal or industrial crowd and too heavy or chaotic for traditional Bowie fans.
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: You Belong In Rock N Roll. Amlapura. Betty Wrong. Sorry.