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, There Goes My Baby.