Nightman Listens To – The Buddha Of Suburbia – David Bowie!

David bowie-the buddha of suburbia-uk.jpg

Greetings, Glancers! We’re deep into the 1990s portion of David Bowie’s discography, which means there’s only about 60 albums left to go. Last time out, I wasn’t enamoured with or by Black Tie White Noise, and I fear that I’ll be saying the same about this album. Why, you ask? Two things – first, that it’s a David Bowie album, and I think by now we’ve made peace with the fact that I’m never going to be the dude’s biggest fan even as I respect what he did; secondly, although I knew zero about this album going in, I did see that it’s an avant-garde soundtrack when I checked Wikipedia for the tracklist, which likely means a lot of warbling, instrumentals, and brass. I’m heading in low on this one, so maybe I’ll be surprised.

Buddha Of Suburbia‘ opens with a brief warble, then thankfully opens into a simple, streamlined ballad of sorts. Ethereal vocals, discernible melodies, recurring guitar hook. It’s hardly the most exciting song, though it does blast into a middle eight let down by a horn lead instead of any other instrument. The second middle eight blast wisely decides against horn, and there’s an amusing musical call back to a certain big Bowie hit. I don’t hate it – this one I could listen to again, though it does go overboard on some of the effects.

Sex And The Church‘ feels… dance? Robotic voice, warbling riff. Odd beats. Clashing and struggling for coherence. If this built to something, I’d likely enjoy it, but at the moment I’m wary it’s just going to repeat aimlessly. Chucking in horns is not what I meant when I hoped it was building to something. Basically half way now, and nothing doing. Usually I don’t mind stuff like this, but for whatever reason it sounds more authentic when it comes from a complete unknown. Of course Bowie had been pulling stunts like this his whole career so my argument is null, but that’s still how I feel. This could just as equally be 30 seconds long or 12 minutes long and not say anything less or more.

South Horizon‘ starts with jazz cymbals and beats – almost never a good thing. Then synth creeps around in the undergrowth, swiftly followed by the inevitable brass. Piano smatterings. This reminds me of Homeland. It also reminds me of one of the in built tunes an old Keyboard of mine once had – it has similarly dissonant, and you could play over the top of it to make something even more monstrous. Free jazz – anyone can do it, no matter if you can play an instrument or not. It does gain a computerized beat in the middle, like a Printer trying to tell me it’s run out of ink. It does mesh together more towards the end, but it still comes across as an empty jam session.

The Mysteries‘ is, gasp, an even longer instrumental. At over 7 minutes, things are looking bleak for Nightman’s sanity. Swells and swarms. It’s quite nice – just don’t fuck it up with horns and plastic beats. One minute down and it’s calming, reflective. I haven’t seen the show this soundtracked (nice) but I can imagine the sort of scene this music would go along with. It also reminds me of some of the music from Lost Highway. Of course, Bowie appears on it too. Which all begs the response – it’s fine when watching a movie or show with the music accompanying it, but for me an instrumental has to be A* tier or be something I have a deep emotional connection to for me to ever enjoy it on its own.

Bleed Like A Craze, Dad‘ opens with plinky plonky piano before threatening to shift into some weird 80s rock mess. Instead it decides upon some weird 80s rock jazz mess. It’s the same bass riff accompanied by Bowie singing ‘Shine shine shine’ over and over, with assorted other instruments dropping in and out. At the second minute, some new vocals and lyrics enter but the musical structure remains largely the same and despite the changes in instruments, it’s very repetitive.

Strangers When We Meet‘ goes this time for a dance rock mess, but quickly softens the rock for a more funk pop approach. This feels more like a straightforward traditional song. At this point I’ll take anything that isn’t misguided experimentation. It’s hardly the most exciting song in the world, and average in almost every way, but given the crap which surrounds it, it stands out so far.

Dead Against It‘ is immediately another which feels more like a song than a mess. It’s building neatly, lots of 90s digitised noise, quite jangly and repetitive but at less it sounds interesting. It somehow almost feels like ABBA. It’s a low B Tier song, raised to a more solid B given the D and E tier material elsewhere on the album. The lead musical hook and all the little jangled keys will stick in the memory, though the vocals are too over-produced and littered with reverb for my liking.

Untitled Number 1‘ is the sort of name every artist attributes to a piece of music at some point. This starts out in an experimental fashion, then sounds like some seedy late 70s Porno, then sounds like some sort of jungle-themed movie. Then it becomes more grounded with the same ethereal, reverb filled vocals and a laid back verse. This one feels more solid C and at the halfway point I’m not sure if it’s going anywhere in the second half that it hasn’t already been in the first. Some extra guitar parts, and of course a load of horns. It does go full Jungle in the final minute.

Ian Fish, UK Heir‘ is a name which doesn’t strike me with confidence. Of course, names can be unrelated to the sound of the piece. It looks like another instrumental. Though its opening couple of minutes are pleasingly spacey and ambient. Again, this is fine for a one off listen, or within the confines of the show, but it’s not something I’m ever going to play again.

Buddha Of Suburbia‘ is a slightly different version to the opening track. What’s the point? It’s still nice. It’s still not amazing.

I’ll be honest – I’m writing this conclusion months after I listened to the album. That’s just the sort of dedicated awesome blogger I am. I can’t remember anything about the album, but going by comments it doesn’t look like I cared much about any of it. Great! Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Buddha Of Suburbia. Strangers When We Meet. Dead Against It.

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Black Tie White Noise!

Black Tie White Noise | CD Album | Free shipping over £20 | HMV Store

Greetings, Glancers! Welcome back once more to the journey that just won’t die. Black Tie White Noise was done at the same time or after his side-gig with Tin Machine. I liked those two albums as much as, if not more than most of Bowie’s solo stuff, but this is him back on track with his own bad self. I know nothing about the album other than Wiki telling me it was a return to form after his 80s exploits – I saw that snippet as I checked out the tracklist. Well, lets get on with it.

The Wedding‘ begins, quite expectedly, with Church bells – one of the most hellish sounds known to man. We then get a gorgeous orchestral swell and some sort of percussive beats. It builds and finally becomes coherent thanks to a near Happy Mondays stomp. It’s all very neat but then it’s nearly ruined by screeching brass – possibly the most hellish sound known to man. I’m guessing at this point this is an instrumental. I don’t mind when they open albums so much. I would like this if it wasn’t for the brass, but it’s a sound I’ll never enjoy. Without that, it’s fine, but a good two minutes too long.

‘You’ve Been Around‘ comes in hard with the fat synth. Then a terribly dated drum sound drops. It’s not quite New Jack, it’s not quite Madchester, but it’s somewhere in between – which must roughly be the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Good melodies and vocals in the verse, but man those drums are terrible. Repeating jangled guitars, backing choirs, more trumpets – all Bowie standards. It’s fine but overlong once more. Cut out the trumpet, change the drums = better.

I Feel Free‘ explodes briefly before dropping into vocal tics and then into a funky verse with too low in the mix vocals. It’s fairly plain as far as Bowie goes, but at least no sign of brass yet. The jangled guitars and choirs are present and accounted for. Yet again, needlessly long.

Black Tie White Noise‘ doesn’t start out well – it has a dreadful 80s tone and more brass. It smooths somewhat but the sound is still very dated and the vocals are disjointed – not in a pleasing way. There’s another voice here, a guest singer of some sort. It’s another McCartney/Jackson type of thing. I get the sentiment behind the song, but it’s buried under so much crap it’s a wonder it was ever released. I’m not sure what sort of sound he was going for here, some sort of merging of genres but none of it works and the boing boing boing of noi-oi-oise is like discovering a spider under your eyelid.

Jump They Say‘ jumps from awful 80s sound into almost as awful 90s sound. It’s dated, but not as pronounced. It gets better in the verses and you can see it working as a club hit regardless of the production. Of course there’s more sabotage in the chorus with silly sax and trumpets. We even get a torturous sax solo. Still, it’s probably the best song on the album till now.

Nite Flights‘ continues the not quite Ministry Of Sound, not quite New Jack vibe. The production largely avoids causing me to wish the song was over. Some interesting sounds, better melodies, but it’s still not the sort of thing to make my playlist long term. This one overtakes the previous track as the best on the album.

Pallas Athena‘ begins much more promisingly, ominous throbbing and a repeated spoken refrain, along with some creepy, cool strings. The beat then drops – it had all been building like a dance track so it was obvious this was coming. It’s a little unfortunate that it doesn’t build upon this opening and instead takes the instrumental approach and throws more piercing sax at us. There’s the makings of a great song in here, it just didn’t go the direction I wanted it to for me to feel it’s anything more than ‘okay’. At least Bowie is continuing to move with the times and try new sounds.

Miracle Goodnight‘ is some funky new age jazz dance which makes me think of chickens. For no reason – those noise are just making me think of chickens. The backing music is too repetitive without adding enough variance, that upwards quartet of notes over and over becoming particularly grating after a minute. I do like the vocals and general melodic quality of the song – but as with almost every other song ever written – there’s no need for the spoken part.

Don’t Let Me Down And Down‘ comes straight in with an 80s vibe – not quite a power ballad but I imagine it’s the closest Bowie ever got to such things. It’s slow, dreamy, the instrumental choices are unusual for Bowie, the drums feel a little too booming consider the soothing nature of everything else. If you guessed there would be a horn solo you’d be right, but this one is more compelling, less screechy than others on the album. Towards the end, Bowie belts out a section of vocals nicely which heightens the obvious pleading quality of the lyrics. Definitely one of my favourites on the album.

Looking For Lester‘ is more 90s poppy jazz stuff – it has that cheap, cheery 90s beat which was up and down the charts at the time, usually accompanied by backing dancers in baggy clothing kicking their legs around. Is this completely instrumental? This sort of track does nothing for me. Interestingly the horns are only marginally annoying, but all the parts add up to a whole lot of nothing.

I Know It’s Going To Happen Someday‘ is a Morrissey cover, which sounds a little odd on the surface, but makes sense the more I think about it. It has an old-timey Gospel feel but I don’t like the echo on the vocals. It wasn’t my favourite song to begin with and this doesn’t do much to change my opinion – there is nothing wrong, I like the backing vocals and the guitar solo, but it’s never going to have an impact on me.

The Wedding Song‘ closes the album, bookending alongside the opener. It starts with some dirty bass before the 90s dance sounds and beats come in. Those really date it but I get the feeling that an updated version would clean up some of the irritants and dating attributes. Get rid of the screechy horns too. I like the vocals and the effects on them this time, and the melody is quite sweet.

Another Bowie album with more misses than hits for me. It’s a very obvious new direction for him to take, especially after his 80s stuff and Tin Machine work, and he does sound quite invigorated by it. Most of the sounds and tones he goes for he does so successfully, but those same sounds and tones are not of the type I generally enjoy and they remind me of a lot of early 90s throwaway pop which I didn’t like at the time. The consistent brass, which I know he’s never going to get away from, also is like wasps to my ears so I’m already starting on the wrong foot when it comes to hearing this record. It’s not one I feel any desire to listen to again, and only a couple of the songs were interesting enough to me to want to revisit.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Black Tie White Noise!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Nite Flights. Pallas Athena.

Nightman Listens To Tin Machine/David Bowie!

Tin Machine (album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! Don’t worry, this isn’t a new series, it’s merely a continuation of the Bowie marathon. I didn’t realise or fully appreciate that Tin Machine was a separate entity from Bowie – I thought it was just another persona like Ziggy or The Thin White Duke or Mathilda Twinklegrunt or whatever. So Tin Machine was more like a side-project – they only made two albums, in between Bowie’s last solo 80s release and first 90s solo release. I may as well cover them. I’ve no idea what sound they have – did he give in and go 80s metal? The name sounds industrial so maybe it’s a mixture of guitars and electronica. It’s Bowie, so who the hell knows. Well, you probably know – I’m about to find out.

Heaven’s In Here: Okay, an actual phat riff. It’s a little bluesy, it actual has a tin sound, the vocals feel like a 50s vocal group, then it goes a little Caribbean. That’s all before the verse starts. That driving riff and bass strives to keep it grounded as Blues rock. Bowie’s vocals are mostly toned down, not going overboard with highs or operatics. The riff’s good, but maybe not good enough to sustain the song for six minutes. There’s other stuff going on so it doesn’t get overly repetitive. Some shouts come towards the end, some funky distorted guitar play and a fantastic closing solo, some great smacking drums as the whole thing collapses, not much in the way of melody.

Tin Machine: Very metal, a crashing intro. This gives way to a fast paced song which reminds me of the original Thinking About You by Radiohead. The vocals are very Ian Curtis. I know I’ll get heat for this, but Bowie’s vocals just don’t lend themselves to heavy music – rock, metal. Too smooth and overwrought. This is quite fun, but I’d have preferred a bit of a growl in the vocals.

Prisoner Of Love: A more traditional chord intro with a nice vibe. Good guitar line, much more melodic. The vocals suit this sound more closely. The extended chorus is half good, half okay, but the verses are great. I like the underlying guitar work with repeats and wavers and loops under the surface.

Crack City: I am Iron Man? I was only joking, and then the chord sequence comes in and I’m not so sure. There’s surely some ripping off here, right? That and Wild Thing. Assholes with buttholes for their brains? Is he making fun of metal here? Or just the drugs involved. A more aggressive edge to the vocals, again it doesn’t quite work, but he’s really going for it here.

I Can’t Read: More tin drums and distortion and a simple yet potent riff. The riff breaks out and gets better. Cool dark atmosphere, and another much more suited to Bowie’s voice. I think the anti-melodic approach works well here – it’s purposefully robotic. Then the chorus is like an anti-anthem with pop sweetness. Very good. Nice screams and another collapse at the end, though we don’t need the sex noises.

Under The God: Feels like a straightforwards rock song. Then the riff comes in and it’s a little samey to ones which have come already, but it doesn’t last. Great lyrics from what I can pick up, good chorus, good backing vocals, good everything. It there’s any complaint, it probably could have been condensed to a punchier 3 minutes.

Amazing: A little bit of Led Zep now? It as a full sound, light staccato guitar bursts and surging solo lines. It’s very sweet, and another good one.

Working Class Hero: We know this one of course, but it’s a bombastic and different intro. Most covers of this I’ve heard stay close to the original. This is a little more funky. The original is far from a favourite of mine so most covers don’t do it for me.

Bus Stop: Another fast rocking intro. Feels quite punk, though softer. Not a fan of the accent. I would have guessed this was another cover of a punk song I haven’t heard – I don’t think it is.

Pretty Thing: A strange voice floats in, quickly joined by fast biting chords in the vein of more punk bands. It’s fast, not quite chaotic, the pauses keep it fresh. It changes pace and tone midway through, become more of a loose, freestyle instrumental.

Video Crime: It’s cool how modern this sounds for something made in 89. If anything, it’s Bowie’s vocals which date it purely because when I think of Bowie, I think 70s/80s. The guitars could be from any decade since the 80s. This song is a little too slow and start/stop, but the refrains are catchy. Great drums throughout.

Run: A moderately more pop sound for the intro, but yet again one with an atmospheric tone. I love that dual riff and Bowie’s vocals suit the verse melodies to a T. The chorus pays off too. The second half doesn’t have the same immediate impact but it does get more rocking towards the end.

Sacrifice Yourself: Stretching guitars, thumping drums, and an old-fashioned rock beat brought up to date with the surrounding chaos. This one is fun, more shouted vocals, but maybe a little too streamlined and simple. Short too.

Baby Can Dance: A long intro with plenty of guitar distortion and howls and assorted beats. A catchy refrain holds it together. The lyrics seem silly. A long middle section with lots of clashing noise. An okay song to close the album, not the best.

It turns out this one wasn’t well received upon release. I can only assume critics and fanboys were more used to the fawning intellect and electro and glam rather than the harsher, more punk-based songs, more in your face display here. That’s their loss. This has been one of my favourite Bowie listens thus far, the heavier songs and more metal approach suiting my traditional tastes. Plus there was hardly a piano or horn in sight, something which usually brings Bowie’s songs down for me. The album as a whole I can see myself listening to again given that I thoroughly enjoyed many of the songs – that usually means the ones I didn’t like as much will increase in my estimation.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Tin Machine!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Prisoner Of Love. Crack City. I Can’t Read. Under The God. Amazing. Run.

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Never Let Me Down!

Greetings, Glancers! Now this is interesting – it’s a Bowie album I haven’t even heard of. Therefore I’m assuming the worst. Plus it was released in the 80s, so assuming ‘the worst’ may be too positive. Hardcore fans may notice that I skipped over Mr Bowie’s Labyrinth Soundtrack album. That’s correct. I’m familiar enough with it that I don’t need to listen to it for the blog. Never Let Me Down though, I don’t recognise a single song from looking down the tracklist. Life is all about new experiences, people, even if they’re shit. Lets hope this isn’t shit.

Day In Day Out: A heavy synth and guitar crunch gives way to a horrible 80s sound. Bad drums, bad beat, bad horns. Backing vocals aren’t so bad. Bowie’s giving it some welly on the mic. I can see plenty of people grooving to this, but equally I can see Bowie fans hating this. It’s just a bullseye shot of all the things I don’t like about 80s music.

Time Will Crawl: This gets off to an immediately better start – the drums are absolutely huge and don’t quite have that 80s sound I don’t like. Much better verse melodies this time, and they carry through to the chorus. I like the keyboard pieces – even though they’re repetitive they are quite atmospheric and aid the pumping, urgent rhythm. This is a song I’ve never heard before, but on first listen it flies up my personal Bowie song ranking.

Beat Of Your Drum: A beeping synth intro, then drums and sounds which make me think of a hundred 80s action movie soundtracks. That’s a good thing. Some extra synth omes in when Bowie begins singing and completely changes the tone of the song, which is not a good thing. The pre-chorus is better than the verse, offering yet another style, the chorus is okay but gets boring quickly, then we return briefly to the intro. A bit of a mixture of things I like and things I don’t then.

Never Let Me Down: Another good intro, starts almost like a power ballad then the harmonica wipes those thoughts away. Then the verse and vocals bring it back and feels as close to a mainstream love song as Bowie has ever done. It’s actually quite sweet, but I get the impression that he’s taking the piss. The chorus doesn’t quite do great things – it starts well but veers too much into funk instead of continuing the maudlin melancholy pop. Still, it’s one I’d like to hear again.

Zeroes: Starts with weird crowd noise. Is that even crowd noise? No, it’s some sort of effect to make it sound as if it’s a live performance. Once the main beat comes in the song picks up and gives me hope. Great, simple verse melody with nice backing vocals and sitar type stuff. A pretty fantastic chorus – not sure I’d remember it after one listen. There’s enough for me to enjoy here, but the melody isn’t something which will latch on easily. That’s a few songs here already I’ve liked, surprising after that terrible start. The final couple of minutes of this one are unnecessary.

Glass Spider: An atmospheric intro. A spoken intro. At least Bowie has a good voice for speaking theatrically. Feels like it could have been on the Labyrinth soundtrack. The music is nifty. Then it all goes wrong when the spoken part ends. Silly bouncy bass synth and strained vocals. The backing music tries to keep things from falling off the cliff into garbage. Miraculously it is saved and dragged back from the cliff edge and gets pretty good again. Bits and pieces of greatness, diluted by some nonsense.

Shining Star: Another strong, atmospheric intro. Then it descends into pure 80s silliness. Yet it works, for me at least. The verses are funny and energetic, the pre-chorus is bland, and the chorus is okay. That muted guitar sound and pace drives the song – the drum sounds are like someone stomping on a bag of crisps. The spoken piece makes me think of Miss Europa Disco Dancer – Nicky’s part.

New York’s In Love: This one starts more like the first song, stepping into dodgy territory. It’s very reminiscent of other 80s dance/pop hits. Some of the twinkling synth and guitar stuff makes it bearable but it’s not for me. It does have an extended guitar section at the end but the song feels much longer than it is.

87 And Cry: Now what the hell is this. It definitely reminds me of another 80s song…. Danger Zone? Footloose? Some sort of Loggins? The main riff is also quite similar to G’n’R’s You’re Crazy. Verses don’t have much going on, the chorus a little better.

Too Dizzy: Oh no, there’s the horrible 80s drums. Then it has some hilarious horns to make it sound like an 80s sitcom or game show. The verse is fun, light-hearted nonsense, and the chorus continues the theme. I’m not sure what’s going on with this album, it’s all over the place. It’s fine, just feels like another pop song, with extra sax.

Bang Bang: Throngs, then big 80s drums. Some words. Then good guitar and atmosphere. Then horns. Lets hope we close on a high. One of my famous chord sequences in use here. He flips it around by including unusual pauses. I probably like this so much because of that chord sequence which makes me think of one of my one songs. Great guitar in there. Oh, turns out this is another Iggy cover.

I’m not sure what to make of this one – some really embarrassing stuff, some very 80s pop songs, but also some really good stuff too. I’d like to know what Bowie fans think of this – I’m probably not as negative towards this album as some will be, mainly because I’m not a big fan of the glam stuff which his fans love. He’s gone again for some new sounds and styles, while still keeping his brass and harmonica close by. Some songs I’ve already forgotten, but a few I’ll be adding to my playlist. Let me know what you think of Never Let Me Down in the comments!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Time Will Crawl, Never Let Me Down, Zeroes, Glass Spider.

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Tonight!

220px-Tonight_(album)

Greetings, Glancers! We’re back in Bowieville today with an album I know absolutely nothing about. Most of the Bowie albums, even though I had not previously listened to them, I was at least aware of their name or their popularity or success. This one I don’t recall ever hearing of, so my first assumption is that it was not well received. Lets check the tracklist… oh. Is this a cover album? It seems like at least half of the songs are covers… that usually means a quick rush job to capitalize on success and keep things ticking over while you plan your actual next album. Right, all signs point towards this not being great, but I hope I’m wrong.

Loving The Alien: Well, this certainly starts out with an 80s vibe – that dreadful 80s drum sound is here in full force, but the overall 80s vibe isn’t too cheesy, instead hitting the right nostalgic chord with me. The vocals… I’m not sure yet whether they are okay are annoying…. bit of both really. Great bridge between verse and chorus. It’s just a tad odd, not enough to put most people off, but just odd enough for people to mutter ‘wtf is this’ to themselves while still liking it. I haven’t, or can’t pay attention to the lyrics here… seems to be something about religion? A good guitar solo/off kilter string section in the middle, leads to a longer instrumental section which is mostly a repetition of the main melody along with strings. Then a guitar solo. Just an extended jam to close. This was perfectly fine – not amazing, not bad, interesting.

Don’t Look Down: Neon drenched steamy US detective show. With added reggae. I’m not a fan of the whole white boy reggae thing. I don’t think I’ve heard the original. It’s slow. Pretty one-note, doesn’t change much from minute to minute. Nothing wrong, but I wouldn’t choose to listen to it again.

God Only Knows: Hmm, well it’s different enough from the original. Very deep vocals, made into more of a drone than what The Beach Boys did. I like the string parts and the stutters. Added horns.

Tonight: You know it’s the 80s when people duet with Tina Turner. More reggae, so not to my tastes. I would enjoy this song much more if they didn’t go for that style, as it’s quite sweet and soothing. I think I’ve heard the original, but can’t remember it at the moment.

Neighbourhood Threat: So, it’s A View To A Kill. Man, this reeks of a lost 80s power rock classic. Again, I’ve probably heard the original, but can’t recall it. Still, this is my favourite on the album since the opener.

Blue Jean: There is a consistent sound and tone throughout the album, I’ll give it that. And even with all the 80s stuff, it never becomes too 80s.

Tumble And Twirl: This one is a little bit reggae, a little disco, and a little 80s rock. Too many horns for my liking. Turns into a bit of a dancing bonanza. Goes on a bit.

I Keep Forgettin: This isn’t overly different from the original, retaining a streamlined old fashioned rock and roll feel. Definitely feels like a bit of random B material.

Dancing With The Big Boys: With all the Iggy covers it only seems fitting to close on a song which features him. Drums feel like the opening to another Bond song. Guitar kind of follows that line of thought. Too many trumps for my liking, as is the case many many times. This comes across as just another average, forgettable rock song.

So, a consistently 80s sounding record without falling into the usual trappings of 80’s guff. It still sounds like a Bowie album, even if a lot of the songs are covers, and unlike many of the other stars of the 70s who struggled to keep up with the new decade. I’d likely only listen to two of the songs again, and the rest is miscellaneous take it or leave it stuff. Not good, not bad, very indifferent. At least it wasn’t an embarrassment, but it’s not one I’ll remember. Let us know your thoughts on Tonight in the comments!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Loving The Alien. Neighbourhood Threat.

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Let’s Dance!

Greetings, Glancers! Ugh, I’ve been dreading this one. Not for any understandable reason you know, but I’ve still been dreading it. Like when you went to a school disco when you were a kid and you got all concerned and sweaty even though you’d be seeing the same friends and classmates you’d seen a few hours earlier? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the title of the album that’s had me wary, along with the fact that we’re now well into the 80s – the decade when good musicians forget how to make good music. I’ve never liked the Let’s Dance song either, and I’ve been concerned the rest of the album will be similar. China Girl sounds familiar, but other than that I don’t recognise any of the songs listed. We’ve been hear many times before, but let’s dance once more.

Modern Love: Well, it starts with guitar at least, so that’s good. Uh oh, repetitive and crappy drums. Talking with accent. Garth Marenghi. Better singing, and I like the minor stuff. Neat melodies. There was this terrible pop song a few years ago which had a very similar beat and rhythm to this and now that I’m hearing this it’s clear the pop song ripped this off. It was this overplayed twee mess with… were there two singers? Thankfully I’ve put it mostly out of my memory, but did it have someone singing ‘infatuation’ over and over? Something like that. The guitar is mostly gone now, leaving jagged piano and prodding brass. It’s very poppy, but it’s good.

China Girl: Okay yes, obviously I know this one. I quite liked the main riff but the song doesn’t really lift off for me until Bowie belts out the vocals after the halfway point. It feels like a curious one-off pop single till that point – I like it, though not a favourite.

Let’s Dance: Ugh, I never liked this one. It just sounded too 80s cheese, mixed with a faux 50s rock swagger and disco sound. It’s not a bad song or anything and I like the parts of the song outside the main ‘Let’s Dance’ vocal and riff. I find it quite overplayed too.

Without You: So, this is a new one on me yet it feels familiar. I like these unassuming songs which don’t try to show off or be some big hit yet quietly do a better job. Like the previous two songs there is a prominent repeating riff, and as this is new for me it doesn’t feel annoying or overplayed. The vocals are gentle, the song is short, and it has an unexpected finish.

Ricochet: Clapping and jungle beats – two of my least favourite things. A stuttering beat and near spoken vocals. It’s certainly doing its best to not endear itself to me. Smokey jazz horns play over dissonant sounds and soundbites. It’s a bit of an experimental mess. I know what he’s going for here, but it’s nowhere near interesting enough for me to be anything more than a one time curio.

Criminal World: Another new one for me, but wait, isn’t this just China Girl again? That riff is very similar. It’s lucky the verse is slow otherwise it would have been nearly identical. There’s some deep bass funking along, the vocals are quiet. The chorus speeds up and brings the melody. Rinse and repeat, though I liked this one.

Cat People: Ah yes. I saw the remake when I was in my early teens and liked it okay if it has boobs and blood when you’re that age, it automatically gets a thumbs up. It starts with simple cymbal snaps, then a growing synth purrs its way into view. Bowie does his best deep voice – it’s all very slow and somber, like a proto-industrial piece. The build up is slow, then there’s an explosion of vocals and sound to take us into the second phase of the song – basically a heavier take on the first with added energy and drums. It’s great. We follow this with a funky instrumental section before the vocals return – this is one of Bowie’s better vocals for me. We end on a nice synthetic guitar solo and choir rendition of the chorus.

Shake It: Umm… Prince? This is very 80s and the lyrics seem like the sort of silly stuff you got back then. It’s not quite New Wave pop, but it has that vibe, tone, and sound and feels like it could have been recorded by any number of 80s groups. That’s not always a bad thing – it’s fun and it would probably be catchy after a couple of listens, but on this first hearing it doesn’t have enough to pull me in.

A mixed bag then – some good ones, some I knew, some new ones. There aren’t any songs I didn’t like, title track notwithstanding as I knew it already, but there are a couple which I didn’t care for. Mostly on the positive side then – maybe a couple I’d choose to listen to again and which would potentially be added to my playlist, but nothing immediately jumped out at me and landed on the playlist. What are your thoughts on Lets Dance? Is this the best of Bowie’s 80s offerings, or does he get better through the decade while his peers suffered? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)

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Greetings, Glancers! We return to David Bowie and another album I know little about. Last time around I knew very little about Lodger which ended up being one of my favourite Bowie albums so far, so hopefully we’ll get more goodness today. As always, share your thoughts in the comments and make any suggestions for what else you think I should listen to.

It’s No Game (No.1)‘. Clicks. Hisses. Doors. Spray pain can being shaken? Music. Japanese. Shrieking Bowie. The music nicely fits the anguished vocals. Chorus (?) finds a little more stability. Some nifty guitar parts. That old glam beat comes in around half way but the general noise drowns out its power to annoy. I think I’d prefer it if the Japanese vocals were a bit more angry too. Nice guitar and shouting end.

Up The Hill Backwards‘. Chords, and twinkles. You gotta have faith. Sudden change and shift to a steady beat, organ backed, and plain talky singing with some gospel harmonies. Dirty guitar part. This is pleasant and poppy, mainly notable for the slight shifts in pace and the intrusive distorted guitar hisses. Final minute or so is instrumental.

Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)‘. Opens in a hasty manner with another jagged riff, some mouth trumpets, and thudding drums. The verses are at a gallop, there is a lot off industrial type noise in the background, beeps, crashes, dissonance. The guitars are formless at times, deliberately playing off key. I’m still not a massive fan of Bowie’s vocals, I suspect that will always be a thing, and you know that I don’t like the whole singing in English accents thing. More wacky guitar parts by Mister Fripp I believe – he seems to have been given free rein to do whatever he pleases, and the results are fantastic.

Ashes To Ashes‘. I know this one, and have always been intrigued by its oddness. Outside of the strange noises, there is a staccato type beat and funky bass. See, here I like Bowie’s singing in the verses, but not so much in other places. I like the call backs to previous songs. This was always one of my favourites before I’d ever heard a single Bowie album, and that hasn’t changed.

Fashion‘. My ow prejudice never allowed me to truly appreciate this – I think fashion is pointless, dangerous, and ultimately worthless – so of course a song with a name like that was going to piss me off, and it was made worse by apparently being a dance-oriented song. I always had an inkling that the whole thing was ironic, satirical, but I could never be arsed to find out either way. Listening now the song’s sentiments are obvious and the angular, gouging guitar lines are great. There’s a little bit of Pink Floyd in there too, which is always welcome, but the song as a whole doesn’t pull me in.

Teenage Wildlife‘. Bending in. Isn’t that the ‘Heroes’ riff? I’m hoping this is an anthem I’m not aware of but will love. Bowie vocals, affected with an operatic twang. I don’t like the piano – reverting too much to glam. The guitar is immense though. I know I get stick for saying things like this, but I feel like many Bowie songs would be better if he had handed over vocal duties to someone else. It is an anthem of a sort, just not the sort I was looking for. Hey, I still like it, particularly the middle part around 4 minutes. It has no business going beyond the six minute mark.

Scream Like A Baby‘. This starts out as something more akin to my tastes – a growling distortion, sudden mystery, a sense of threat, and here the vocals have more impact. It all falls apart in the chorus, but those verses are great, the riff working perfectly with the anger of the lyrics and vocals.

Kingdom Come‘. This seems to be following a similar rhythm to the previous song, though is immediately more upbeat – good vocals, good backing vocals, feels like a hit. Feels a little Motown. I see this was actually a cover – I had no idea. It loses a little impact towards the end, but otherwise I like it.

Because You’re Young’. Hold on. Hold on, what is this? This is more like it. That’s possibly my favourite Bowie intro yet, followed by a pretty good riff and ‘scary’ noises. This almost feels like Alice Cooper. Don’t mess it up. Uh oh, a sudden pause and wavering vocals. None of the rest of the song lives up to the start, which is a great shame, but as a whole it all balances out.

It’s No Game (No.2)‘. A steady bass and beat, regular guitar interruptions, nicer low range vocals, and a cool choir chorus. Great lyrics. He still seems angry. Camel shit. A sudden pause. Over? No, noises. Now it’s over.

Another one goes down. We’re into the 80s now, a decade where almost all of the successful artists of the previous decade(s) either fell apart or began releasing monumental amounts of crap. I know Bowie had some hits in the decade, but I don’t know much about his album input so I guess I’ll find out. This one.. I’d say it was middling for me, closer to the top than the bottom – some highlights but few standouts. There isn’t any filler and I can’t say I didn’t not enjoy a single song either – middling in other words. Let me know in the comments what you think of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and where it ranks in your list of Bowie records!

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Lodger

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Greetings, Glancers! We’re back in the weird and wacky and often infuriating musical world of Monsiour Bowie and his thirteenth album Lodger. I’ll be honest and say that it’s not one I really know anything about – I never hear anybody talking about it and I don’t recall seeing it in many Best Album lists. That will probably mean it turns out to be my favourite by him so far. Well then, I see no sense in ‘anging ’bout.

Fantastic Voyage. Drums. Guitar and piano. Familiar Bowie vocals and beat. A little woozy and gospel. Building. Big note. Sounds like the lyrics are just as vital today. A nice start.

African Night Flight. Noises. Worse noises. Bangs. Tribal space loops. Rapping. This is certainly different. Can’t help but smile at this one. I mean, it’s not good but it’s certainly hypnotic, ambitious, and draws you in. I think I wold like this more with multiple listens.

Move On. Guitar phased. Galloping. Deep vocals. So a lot of this is being inspired by Africa. Name dropping other places. Very loose. None of the songs have had a traditional structure or obvious hook yet, though each has been interesting in its own way and not off-putting. Shouty vocals now.

Yassassin. Jaunty guitars and organs. Reggae beat. Arabian string sounds. Arabian vocals. It’s interesting again, another one with a sound different to the songs before it. So far these are all songs that are difficult to capture on first listen – they seem dense and mysterious and will only reveal their secrets after a few more goes.

Red Sails. Low. Building drums. Faster. Asian vocals and noises. A little spacey. Crazy guitar. Crazy vocals. Like a bunch of space pirates on acid. It’s okay, it’s a little too close in pace and general style to his glam stuff, but different enough in sound to not put me off.

DJ. Drums. Disaster strings. Funky. Bass loopy, guitar disco. Lyrics sound like he is taking the piss out of DJs for self important. Goes on a bit too long.

Look Back In Anger. Fast. Boxing ring bells. Great drums. Guitar spikes. Good vocals. Another interesting one that does its own thing.

Boys Keep Swinging. Well, I know this one. Or more accurately, I know the Susanna Hoffs cover from her mostly crappy debut solo album. I haven’t heard the original before. That Hoffs album has notoriously bad production, this sounds better instantly. I can see why she chose to cover it, but it’s not amazing. Good bass. These last albums have all had fantastic musical work from the surrounding band. Solo. Sounds an awful lot like some of the solos on The Holy Bible so I assume the Manics borrowed this sound.

Repetition. Guitar chord. Bass weirdness. Falling through a dream. Dazed wandering through a crowded foreign city. Sounds like a song about beatings. The sound and song title suggesting madness and inevitability and no escape? It’s another weird one, but okay.

Red Money. More weirdness. Military beat, off kilter bass. Off kilter everything. This is slow and mesmerizing again, but along with the previous song feels like a slow down, or a peddle off the gas, both in terms of pace and quality. Still good though, but maybe a little too experimental for most.

I said this would probably be my favourite because I didn’t know anything about it, and honestly it’s pretty close. As I mention a few times above, I think the songs here demand multiple listens and unlike some of his other stuff I am more than willing to stick this one on again – it could be that the songs don’t work on a personal level after I hear them more and are more like cutesy tracks that only work once, but I expect them to grow on me more. There are no obvious hits here so I understand why this one is not rated as highly as others, but there are no weak songs here and each one is quite different.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Lodger. Were you around when it was first released? How do you rank it alongside Bowie’s other works?

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – ”Heroes”

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Greetings, Glancers! We’re back with sexy spaceman himself today and listening to yet another of his most lauded efforts. “Heroes” is a song everyone knows and was another one of those Bowie hits I learned to play on guitar back in my teens. As for the album, I understand it is the second part of his Berlin trilogy which means it will be heavily inspired by the Krautrock and other euro music that Bowie surrounded himself with at the time. As for the other songs… I don’t think I recognise any of them so we’ll have to see. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Low and its reliance on instrumentals and ambiance so if this is in a similar vein I won’t be overly keen. If I enjoy some of the songs as much as the title track then we’ll be on to a winner. Lets get to it.

Beauty And The Beast: Noise. Piano. Boing. Building. Drums. Crash. Low voice. Fun and funky. Guitar. I can dig. My my.

Joe The Lion: More guitars, good good. Heavier edge than the glam nonsense. Funky again, with an industrial vibe – lots of noise. Like a lot of the backing riffs and how the vocal melodies intertwine. Guitar going buck nuts.

Heroes“: Well, not much to say about this. Immortal riffs, lyrics, melodies. My favourite part has always been the main riff going into the chorus. And of course when Bowie starts belting out the chorus. Good start to the album so far.

Sons Of The Silent Age: Slower. Drunk Dazed. Are we back in space? That riff sounds an awful lot like Pink Lady Lemonade by Acid Mothers Temple – seriously, compare them. This is more good stuff, hazy, crazy, drifty.

Blackout: Weirdness. Guitar weirdness, drum weirdness. Stabilizing. Collapsing. Piano. Vocal weirdness. Dancing. Breakdown. Guitar still going crazy like it’s in the wrong song, I always love it when guitar parts are like that.

V-2 Schneider: Phasing. Military drums. Bass. Noise. Assuming instrumental. Still, it’s good. Not much else to add. Now singing the title. I hear ‘Schneider’ I think ‘Buffy’.

Sense of Doubt: Ominous. News organs. Scary. Something coming to get me. Not a lot to this, but I like it, very good.

Moss Garden: Wind. Distortion. More instrumentals. I’m generally not a fan of instrumentals, but he’s got it right on this album. Japanese. A nice bit of calm after the previous unnerving stuff. Like wading through an ethereal pool of water and cloud.

Neukolln: This is making me hungry. Or I’m already hungry and it’s making it worse. Drippy toilet noises. Sax disaster. Honk. HONK. Weeeeeeee!

The Secret Life Of Arabia: Echo stubbed guitar. Cowboys. Drums. Singing. More nice funky disco rocky stuff. Ugh, not claps. A good ending.

So, a significant step up from Low in my opinion, which of course is worth less than nothing. The album doesn’t exactly lose its way in the second half, but instrumentals as a rule have to be exceptional to grab my attention alongside vocal pieces. These instrumentals are very good, but I prefer the first half. The harsher rock feel is more palatable for me when compared with Bowie’s glam work, meaning this is another one I’ll listen to again. Let us know in the comments what you think of “Heroes” and if you have any particular memories and opinions of it!

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Low

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Greetings, Glancers. Today I listen to an album I have been looking forward to, primarily because it is one of Bowie’s most acclaimed while also being one i don’t think I know any songs from. Looking at the eleven songs on Low none of the names jump out at me, so I don’t think I’ve even heard the singles, though once I start listening I might recognise some of them. I’ve always known that Low was the start of of Bowie’s Berlin period – a time when he moved away from the US to try to get clean and subsequently became influenced by German music. This began a switch to a more electronic, less rock focused style – I’ve never been a fan of electronic music but I have not been the biggest fan of Bowie’s glam rock moments so it’ll be interesting to see how this sits with me.

Speed Of Life‘. Throb. Guitars. Noises. Beat. A logical next step for glam. I don’t like that guitar tone. Shift. Good drums and everything else. There’s the synth. Where’s the vocals? Instrumental? It sounds nice and all, but not sure if it does enough to warrant being that long and not merging into next song.

Breaking Glass‘. More guitars, nice riffs. Talky vocals. Jump scare. Bass funk. Toe taps. Short. Two songs which are decent but feel very much like last minute ideas jumbled together.

What In The World‘. Spectrum game noises. Talky vocals. Drums. Chaos. Guitar bits. Certainly interesting and messy and something else.

Sound And Vision‘. Country funky twang. This one sounds familiar. Twinkling synth. Do dee doo. Thrumpet. Yes, thrumpet. Very nice.

Always Crashing In The Same Car‘. More traditional, though still lots of noises wafting around. Good ‘chorus’. Good guitars.

Be My Wife‘. This one is great right off the bat. I’ve never heard this before but it feels as if I have. Superb drums and bass, guitar and piano are great, and it has a bunch of melody squeezed in. I’d say this is one of my favourites so far in my Bowie journey, of the ones I’m new to.

A New Career In A New Town‘. Beat. Beats. Feels like New Order. Nice backing sounds. Smash. Piano and harmonica and guitar. Another instrumental? This is pretty great too. Quiet. Loud. Fading.

Warszawa‘. Doom. Epic. Throbbing. Sci-fi soundtrack. Another instrumental? It’s another good one. Loving the Flutey McClarinet. Words. Tribal chants. This is something else entirely. Getting Pink Floyd and The Gathering vibes. Doesn’t sound dated in any way.

Art Decide‘. Noises and shakes. Louder noises. More sci-fi soundtrack stuff. This one is okay, not a patch on the previous song though.

Weeping Wall‘. Jangling. Giant synth throbs. Noise disaster. Guitar being played from another room. Guitars infested with wasps. Howls. Similar feelings to this as the previous song.

Subterraneans‘. Eerie. Hums. Another instrumental? Monks. Yes, I can imagine a horde of cult types huddling in some dank underwater cave, hooded conga lines, and one lonley sole looking up through the sewer grates at the neon world above, wishing to reach out and grab hold of it. Better than the last two, not quite up to Warszawa’s standards.

I’ll get thumped for saying it, but this has an air of a collection of B-Sides to it; that’s not a reflection of the quality of the songs as there are some great tunes here that I instantly liked – it’s more to do with the album lacking a consistency, something tying the whole thing together, and having a lot of instrumentals. This of course is a first listen and an immediate reaction, so this sort of review doesn’t lend itself well to recognizing the less obvious traits. We all know that some albums take multiple listens to get under your skin. The goods far outweigh the negatives here and it’s therefore an album I’ll want to listen to again. The album doesn’t sound anything like what I expected to, based upon what I’ve read about – I was expecting a lot more synth and repetition, but it’s clearly Bowie’s flexible take on things rather than a simple copycat by a lesser artist. I believe many critics lambasted this upon release for not having enough vocals… you know, I’ve never been a huge fan of Bowie’s singing – his voice or his delivery, so I’m quite happy to have less singing. I understand both why people dismissed this on release, and why it has grown in acclaim over the years.

Let us know in the comments what your thoughts on Low are. Is it your favourite Bowie album, or is it one you rarely listen to?