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?