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!

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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?

 

Chart Music Through The Years – 1975

Yes! Back thanks to an almost universal lack of demand, I stretch back the scalp of time and feast upon the mushy innards of the past – in this instance I return to the UK music charts. If you’re interested, you can read my original post here – https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/the-uk-top-40/

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Greetings, Glancers. We’re going back through time again today to a when before I was. The world was a different place in 1975, with what we know today as the modern world sticking its bloody head out of the womb. The hippy dream was emitting a death rattle on Watergate’s floor, Thatcherism and Reaganism were on the rise bringing in a wave of wealth and prosperity for the wealthy and prosperous, Spain clambered out of a dictatorship paving the way for drunken sun-worshipers from Blighty, and terrorists continued to maim and kill in the UK, Vietnam, Laos, and everywhere else. On a lighter note, Fawlty Towers was first aired, Jaws reminded drunken sun-worshipers of the dangers of water, Space Mountain opened its doors, Saturday Night Live kicked off, and Ali floored Frazier.

In the music world, Queen released a little song called Bohemian Rhapsody, Iron Maiden was formed, Alice Cooper became a solo act, Fleetwood Mac gained a Buckingham and a Nicks, Led Zep sold out Madison Square Gardens, Pink Floyd wished you were here, and Janis Ian won her first Grammy. From a historical POV, you would think that the beginnings of punk were coming into view while the more overblown rock and prog bands were at or just past their peak, with Disco still on the rise, Motown on the wane, and indie artists influenced by past masters picking up their first instruments. The ten songs below suggest that pop, Disco, folk, Motown were comfortable together in the charts giving a variety rarely seen nowadays. But are the songs any good? There are a few here I don’t recognise so lets plug in the earphones and hit play.

  1. Art Garfunkel: I Only Have Eyes For You
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Don’t Look At Me

Swirling guitars. Slow beat. Sweet, plain vocals. Ah yes, I know this from Buffy, where it is used in the episode of the same name. This is a different version though. I can’t say this version is too interesting, it’s a little boring and sappy. The violins in the background don’t add anything, which is criminal.

2. David Essex: Hold Me Close

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Don’t Touch Me

Of course I know this one, but I didn’t until I heard the verses. The introduction is okay, the verses catchy, the singing is a little strained and stretched, and I’m not quite sure what Essex was trying to accomplish singing in this style. Regardless, it’s fun and lighthearted stuff.

3. The Drifters: There Goes My First Love

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Pain Is Pant Pissingly Hilarious!

Funky horns and cymbals. And yes, I know this one. Big vocals, catchy melodies and lyrics and woo-oohs. A nice, bittersweet song for nostalgia fans of all ages and eras. It’s an unusually cheery song for a topic filled with heartache. Simple, easy, straight to the point, and memorable.

4. David Bowie: Space Oddity

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Maybe The Drifters Were Laughing About This

One of my favourite Bowie songs, and years ahead and indescribably different from anything else in this top 10. I know it, you know it, all together now – ‘Ground control to Major Tom’.

5. Morris Albert: Feelings

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Keep Them To Yourself, Mate, Alright?

I was half expecting this to be some crooning disaster, but it’s a highly melancholy song with an effective acoustic intro. The vocals aren’t very good at the start and the piano doesn’t do anything for me, but the strings are good – need a little more oomph though. Those backing vocals are pretty bad too. Good intro, bad first verse and chorus, much stronger second verse and chorus. With a bit more tinkering to my tastes I’d enjoy this one more.

6. ABBA: SOS

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Sex On Swedes?

It’s ABBA so you already know what it’s going to feel like. I’ve always liked how the cascading piano intro merges with the ominous guitar. I think ABBA don’t get enough credit for their verses, but it’s usually the chorus which gets the plaudits – you all know the chorus, but for my money it’s the operatic, wind-swept, moors-evoking, verses which make this one good.

7. The Chi-Lites: It’s Time For Love

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Elementary, My Dear

Noise disaster intro. I imagine this sounded like the future at the time, but it’s laughable now. Anyway, onto the singing. Good enough vocals, is there a bloke in there too? Is it a woman? I have no idea. Plain melodies, slow beat, a little tame. Probably a song for slow dances at Prom and then back seat luvin’. But it’s not that good as either of those things. Nor is it as good stretching your calf muscles. And it’s unnecessarily long, too too long.

8. Smokie: Don’t Play Your Rock And Roll To Me

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Smokie? Who The Fuck Is Smokie?

Give a little bit, give a little bit of your love to me! No? Oh, this is a different song apparently. Smooth, bland, dire hand claps. But then they have to go and add some strings to make me like it a little bit. Vocals are good in places, but it’s mostly forgettable pap but nice enough to chill to on a Summer’s day.

9. The Four Seasons: Who Loves You

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Fucking Giants

Assuming this is some sort of remix, taking Frankie Valli and updating with a disco vibe. As awful as that sounds, this isn’t bad. There isn’t a lot to it, but it’s catchy and fun. It has no need at being stretched past four minutes as it’s pretty much the same forty seconds or so repeated over and over, with a funky breakdown in the middle.

10. Band Of The Black Watch: Scotch On The Rocks

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Fucking Shite

Great name for a band, lets see what they sound like. Wait a minute, it’s Black Watch, not Black Witch. Oh lord, no, anything but this. An utter disaster that would sound pretty bad played with any other instrument, but the old strangled cat in a bag gets squeezed for this one. It’s the same twee riff over and over again. How this ever made the charts, nay, how this ever got recorded is a testament to man’s worthlessness.

An unfortunate end then to a decent collection of tunes. When I think of 1975, I think of the giants of rock at their peak, just before most of them began falling apart, but these ten songs do not speak of such things, nor do the top selling singles of the entire year. I get the impression therefore that these songs do not accurately reflect the quality of music released in 1975 – albums such as Blood On The Tracks, Physical Graffiti, Welcome To My Nightmare, Between The Lines, Toys In The Attic, Born To Run, Wish You Were Here, A Night At The Opera, and Horses. To that end, here are ten songs which I feel everyone should listen to at least once from 1975, some famous, some less so. Enjoy!

  1. One Day In Your Life – Michael Jackson
  2. Jive Talkin – The Bee Gees
  3. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
  4. Kashmir – Led Zeppelin
  5. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
  6. Only Women Bleed – Alice Cooper
  7. At Seventeen – Janis Ian
  8. Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen
  9. Walk This Way – Aerosmith
  10. Squeeze Box – The Who

What were you listening to in 1975? For those born after, which songs from this year above or otherwise do you still listen to regularly? Let us know in the comments!

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!

Nightman Listens To – Young Americans – David Bowie

*Note – I wrote this review a couple of weeks before Bowie died making this the last album of his I heard before his untimely passing.

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Greetings, Glancers! After last time’s outing where I (shock!) actually fully enjoyed a Bowie album I’m hoping for another positive experience. I don’t know much about the album, but looking at the cover it seems to be a more streamlined, stripped back approach, with possibly more simple music and less star gazing. Reading the album intro on Wikipedia, it does mention that the album was Bowie’s take on 1970s Soul music so this could either go very very wrong for me, or be just okay. Lets see how we get on.

‘Young Americans’ is one I have of course heard before, though I was never a huge fan. It’s nicely different from the glam sound which is great, and the vocal backing in the chorus is a plus. I like the swirly middle part and some of the piano pieces, it just doesn’t do a lot for me but a good enough song.

‘Win’ opens with more swirling. Reminds me of… Band On The Run? Nice swaying sounds, gentle and sleepy. Still not a huge fan of the vocals, the backing singers frequently drown him out. It’s another good song with great arrangements but doesn’t hit all the marks on first listen to make me fully fall in love.

‘Fascination’ sounds more like straight up funk, hard driving bass, beats, and guitar. I like this one so far, lets hope there’s a good chorus or pay off. Yay, leads into more backing vocals like some disco influenced American cop show with Cadillacs crashing into bins as they speed down narrow alleyways, and possibly some gangster hanging off the side of a helicopter as it flies above a swamp. This is a good one I’ll happily listen to again. Epic ending too.

‘Right’ starts like a funky cover of Starman then becomes a steamy neon-drenched dirge in the verse and a soulful explosion of different proportions for the chorus, with great sax and guitar throughout. A strong finish to the first side, and a side of Bowie I wasn’t aware of.

‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’ opens side two in a similar way to how the first side ended; crunching sax and bruising beats. There isn’t much happening from the perspective of a hook, but there’s a lot going on in terms of arrangement and so much depth and warmth in the sound that you don’t really know how to listen to it. It’s fine to let it all wash over you, but it does feel a little like a never ending end credits sequence – a jam that will simply keep going as more performers come in and play a little piece, taking over from anyone who finally leaves or collapses.

‘Across The Universe’ is one of my favourite Beatles songs. I’m not sure I enjoy the vocal approach to this cover and the way it’s given a glam, country style approach. He gives it his all and definitely gives it a new spin, but it’s not good.

‘Can You Hear Me’ seems like we’re on the straight and narrow again, with lovely strings, Motown, almost oriental guitars. It’s another gentle song with superb arrangement and both verse and chorus hit the mark. There’s a melancholy throughout, and though I’m not catching any of the lyrics on the first listen I get the sense of desperation and hopelessness, though it does end on a lighter gospel note.

‘Fame’ is one I’ve heard bits and pieces of before, but never really gave it a full listen. It feels like the most experimental piece of funk on the album, with a lot of heavy guitars and overlapping instruments and vocals. A lot of funny and interesting stuff going on here, some of it dated, but mostly it still works. I can’t say it’s the best song on the album, and a strange way to close it, but it’s fine.

So, another good album from Bowie, or should I say more accurately it’s another Bowie album that I have enjoyed – not really any weak songs or filler, though there is the lack of a truly memorable or standout song or two. The sound and style is coherent which works both to the good and the bad – that sound is catchy and funky, but it does threaten to become samey. The album is short though, and none of the songs outstay their welcome (with the possible exception of Across The Universe), and I appreciate the new style Bowie is moving in. Anything’s better than that glam shite.

What do you think of Young Americans? Is this among your favourite Bowie albums or does it contain any of your favourite songs? Let us know in the comments!