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!
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 ANew 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.
‘ArtDecide‘. 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
*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.
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!
Greetings, Glancers! Well well, it’s been over a year since my last Bowie post. I think blasting through his first 7 albums in quick succession hurt me – I needed a break – and during that break I got taken aside by listening to and reviewing a few other artists instead. But today we are back to Bowie.
If you’ve been following my Bowie journey, you’ll have learned that I have been disappointed in what I’ve found and harsh on what I’ve heard. I’m exactly the sort of person that should love Bowie, but so far it just hasn’t worked out, like an awkward teen’s first visit to a strip club. There have been moments, but few and far between, and while I’ve made silly remarks about Bowie only ever writing 3 types of songs the fact remains that I just haven’t been feeling it. I know that I am not a fan of glam rock, the sound and the style and the approach mostly grates on me. I love a variety of artists from the period from which Bowie first emerged. I love artists who have followed similar paths and even covered similar ground. My best guess is that his work doesn’t lend itself well to first time listens, as well as the fact that he has been so hyped for me, by others and by myself. I haven’t yet bothered to go back and listen to any album I’ve already covered – presumably I would gain a greater appreciation with repeated listens, indeed I know this has happened many times with me already, seeing an album become a favourite after being entirely underwhelmed on fist listen. But enough of that for now, lets continue along the path of the beam and see what Bowie has to bark about on Diamond Dogs.
‘Future Legend’. Burpy howl moan. Zombie speak. Concept album then. Nice guitar. Building atmosphere. Cheers.
‘Diamond Dogs’. Lower, deeper vocals than usual. The glam sound is still there, the chugging guitars, melodies ok. Storytelling lyrics again, seem more darker, less fantasy based. Singing like Hendrix. Unusual drums. Howling. Trumpets sneaking in. Woof woof. Fine, nothing exiting. Doesn’t want to end. Trumpet and piano end.
‘Sweet Thing’. Rumbes. Swirling backwards scary bits. Fade into Elton John. Even deeper vocals. Sombre. This is better. Surge. Great vocals. Nice piano accompanying bits. Could do without the sax, but then that’s almost always the case. Good chorus. Sadness. Great solo. Scratched out. Sax and future sounds merge together. Speaking. Accelerating. This is what I’m looking for, greats I’ve somehow missed.
‘Candidate‘. Scratched out. Sax and future sounds merge together. Speaking. Accelerating. This is what I’m looking for, greats I’ve somehow missed. A nice melding of the songs, true Concept album style.
‘Sweet Thing Reprise’. And back around again. So this is pretty much a single song split into three parts. I love a good concept album, I love songs which flow together like this, so I’m happy. Sudden shift ending with nice flutey bits fading into a bass and guitar chuggathon. I think it’s safe to say this is the best 8 or 10 minutes Bowie has done yet, and I know what’s coming next so this is shaping up to be my favourite album so far by Bowie. Yay!
‘Rebel Rebel’. This is another track I’m familiar with, having taught myself to play on guitar back through the mists of time. It is a terrific riff, and the melodies are great throughout. Not a lot to say on this one as I’m pretty familiar with it. Memories of school chats about guitarists, songs to practice, not sure why I didn’t try to listen to more Bowie back then.
‘Rock And Roll With Me’. Let hope side 2 lives up to Side 1. Ha ha, I see the Manics have ripped off this piano piece in their song As Holy As The Soil (that buries your skin). The similarities continue throughout. Magnificent chorus, great vocals, and more good guitar work. Keep it up! Even the guitar clanging outro is great.
‘We Are The Dead’. I’m getting a John Carpenter vibe from this. Good organ accompaniment. Continuing the strong melodies. Thankfully little aside from the second track has had the usual glam sound of his previous few albums. Growing sound, then tugged back. Lots of lyrics. Burroughs style writing, stream of words and more words descending.
‘1984’. Weird sounds. Disco. Future SHAFT!. Great strings. Funky stuff. Sounds like a Seventies cop show theme tune starring a Gangsta Cop and straight-laced white veteran thrown together. Also sounds like a musical. Also doesn’t really sound like anything else he has done.
‘Big Brother’. Sounds like The Crow soundtrack. More low vocals. Another big chorus. A lot of this sounds incredibly modern, as if it was only recorded in the last few years. The brass parts aren’t actually annoying here. Shift to acoustic guitars. Explode into chorus again. Good stuff.
‘Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family’. Merging with previous song. Quick words. Repeated chants. Funky enough and guitar effects abound, but I generally don’t go for this repetitive stuff. Unless it changes, this feels like a mid-album track rather than an ending. Oh dear, Bowie collapse. End. Well, I feel that could have been stretched and expanded upon to make it a more apt closer, but it’ll have to do.
Success! Now that was an album I will happily listen to again. In many ways that didn’t feel like a Bowie album, given what I’ve heard so far. I don’t know if this was seen as a radical change in direction at the time by fans and critics, and I don’t know what’s coming next. I hope he moves away from the Glam rubbish and towards…. what year are we… 1974? Punk and Disco were still a few years away, and all the 80s crap approaches (maybe Bowie does well in the 80s, I have no idea). So mid-seventies, big ass blues stadium rock and Progressive rock, that’s what I’d like to see – another Bowie concept album, or one packed with riffs and solos. I’m sure that’s about as far away as possible from what he actually recorded next, but for the first time since the start of this endeavor, I’m excited to see what he’ll do next.
Is this your favourite David Bowie album, or is it closer to the bottom of the pile? Let me know in the comments what your thoughts and memories are of Diamond Dogs.
Sigh. Here we go again, glancers. It’s another voyage of disappointment into the back catalogue of Mr D. Bowie. Who knows, maybe this time I’ll enjoy it? So far, his most revered work has passed through my ears with little impact so maybe I’ll be one of those weirdo fans who loves the stuff which his most diehard fans despise. Or maybe I’m doomed to never be the fan I assumed I was going to be. Will I be surprised, or will this album further confirm my theory that Bowie, up to this point, has only written three songs – the jaunty ballad, the stomping rocker, and the standalone pop hit? Looking down the track listing, I get confused when I see a Pink Floyd and a Who song that I recognise. What’s going on? A quick look at Wikipedia tells me that this is actually a covers album… interesting, I wasn’t aware that Bowie had done such a thing. More interestingly, there is a quote stating that the album was conceived as being something completely opposite from all he had done previously. Halleloo-yah!
Looking at Bowie’s demented visage on the cover, where he appears to have had a toxic skin peel and face transplant with Twiggy, or else they are both wearing pairs of tights over their bodies (well, it was the 70s), I can only assume that Bowie was still trying on his androgynous waif thing to startle the establishment and confuse heterosexuals. That is all good, but forty years have passed since then, and we are all now living in a future where skinny jeans are the bane of society not because it is a statement of any sort, but because every dickhead is wearing them. We are all well-fed, entitled ghosts. The cover offers little suggestion of what is in store for my listen, other than more coked-up madness. Lets roll.
‘Rosalyn’ (The Pretty Things): Jangly punk chords. Fast, upbeat fun. Bowie not singing like Bowie. I have no idea what the original sounds like. Seems like a fine rock song.
‘Here Comes The Night’ (Them): Segues nicely into this one. Riff, brass, singing, exodus, fast. I’ve heard a few versions of this. This takes away most of the blues, glams things up and while it isn’t cheesy, it’s more light and breezy than other covers I’ve heard.
‘I Wish You Would’ (The Yardbirds): Big riff. Keeping up the high-speed. Bowie attempts to ruin it with silly screeching. Nice, chaotic middle section with Harmonica and guitars shredding each other to pieces before riffs returns. Guitar collapse at end is a good one. Overall, a great tune with a segue into next
‘See Emily Play’ (Pink Floyd): Heavier and more glammed version of Barrett’s original. Overall more bombastic, less spacey. But still weirdo comedy moments between verses and chorus. Nice choices of instruments and sounds. Not sure about the alien vocals. Good drums in middle. This seems much longer than the original. LoveFilm DVD arrives…Dellamorte Dellamore.. sweet, been waiting for this. Mash-up ending noyses.
‘Everything’s Alright’ (The Mojos): I know that riff. I don’t know how. Stomping. Bowie’s voice isn’t best suited to harsh edged blues or punk stuff, but it does give a unique flavour, and it works better with the glam updating of the music. This is just an average song, nothing memorable aside from the riff, sounds like a thousand other songs of era.
‘I Can’t Explain’ (The Who): Big guitars. Trumps. Piano. I actually don’t find this too different from The Who’s version… it’s a pretty straight-forward song and there’s only so much you can change whilst keeping it recognisable.
‘Friday On My Mind’ (The Easybeats): Twiddle hammer on off. This sounds more like something Bowie would have written, too many words. I assume people have made the comparisons with The Cure before? I don’t believe I knew this song, but it’s pretty good, must hunt out the original, maybe it doesn’t have Bowie’s antics on the microphone distracting everyone.
‘Sorrow’ (The Merseys): Lovely sounds. Happy days. Freedom. Love. Sorrow. Sadness. Bittersweet. Dual vocals. Overall, another strong song which makes me want to seek out the original (or past versions as the case may be). Rich ending.
‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ (The Pretty Things): String bends. Riff. Blues. Faster. Again, seems like a fine song, up-tempo, though nothing overly catchy or memorable here.
‘Shapes Of Things’ (The Yardbirds): Bowie chooses to embrace the chaos and psychedelic stylings of the nature, adding plenty of his own flair and additional effects to make something both brilliant and monstrous. The guitars are thankfully still there. I wonder if Beck appreciated this. Collapse end.
‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’ (The Who): Shuddering start. Keeps the Who’s vocal style and doesn’t lose any of Townsend’s guitar attack. Bowie actually lets rip well here in a decent Daltry impersonation. Great song, fine cover.
‘Where Have All The Good Times Gone’ (The Kinks): Drum. Chords. More brass. Another heavier, more glammed up version of the original. Sudden end.
I imagine this ranks up amongst the best cover albums ever. It has a focus which is both a strength and a weakness – the focus on a certain period of music and updating each in a fairly similar style gives a coherence, while limiting the album to songs of a certain period which were already following fairly similar styles means that the album could become a little repetitive. Luckily, most of the songs are stong enough to counter any sameness, with only a few feeling like a fan’s favourites rather than something the rest of us could enjoy. Well done, Dave, you’ve done another good thing here.