David Bowie

Released 1979 on RCA
Reviewed by ur, 21/08/2000ce

There's a small list of artists that, even if doubtlessly belong to the "rich & famous popstars" category, still manages to remain somewhat unsung.
People like Robert Smith, Martin Gore, and even Lindsey Buckingham (yes, the one from Fleetwood Mac: but have you heard his songs from the Tusk double lp?), have sold lots of records but never achieved a major critical status (because of their success?). Among these princes without a throne (but with huge bank accounts), David Bowie is king. He was the perfect icon for the glamourous 70's, becoming during the 80's a super/ superstar thanks to a string of sad white disco-funk hits. The last 10 years were less generous with the Duke (even if his Outside album was pretty good, missing the mark only because of an excess of good will).
Certainly he had everything, but I always thought his influence on punk and new wave now is largely underrated: in particular I find his Berlin period extraordinarily rich, with those two masterpieces (Low and Heroes) standing as the true Rosetta stone for many English and American bands to come. But the by-the-wall era spawned also a third daughter, largely forgotten by Bowie himself, and that was a decent peer of its two predecessors.
Exhausted, after three years of incessant work solo or producing his buddy Iggy Pop, Bowie recorded his next album between Berlin and Montreux (dans le studio-chateau por les musiciens ultramillionaires), with a team composed by his usual partners Eno, Belew and Alomar, plus ex High Tide violinist Simon House. Lodger, the result, came out different from the other 2 panels of the tryptich, but equally engaging. Less keyboard-oriented, the new album attempted a new approach to the pop formula, adding slight touches of pseudo-world music and mechanical rhythms probably heard in some Devo records.
Gone are the chilling Eno meets krautrock soundscapes of the last two lp's, replaced by a manic mood somewhat near to the stillborn American wave scene: Boys Keep Swinging, one of the singles, strongly remembers the Talking Heads of Fear of Music, while African Night Flight seems an hysterical take on I Zimbra by the same Heads. Look Back in Anger (apart from the title) is another applied lesson on rhythm; Move On and Fantastic Voyage have connections with the more relaxed Can pieces, filled as they are with ambient keys and soft guitar work. On Red Sails, an invocation to the hinterland neon forest, the treated guitar of Belew glimmers and flourishes as a fractal picture; Yassassin, built around a fake Turkish phrase played by the violin of Simon House, is a masterful interpretation of the same Bowie, who delivers his lyrics with lazy sickness.
All the record, if very brief, still shimmers with the talents of the best Bowie: unpredictable vocal melodies and a rare ability for turning the strange and the unorthodox in pretty pretty tunes. The Ryko cd version currently out of print had also a bonus track from the same sessions, aptly titled I prey Olé.
After this album, poor David released another interesting lp, Scarey Monsters, before meeting china girls & modern loves, forever disappearing high in the charts.

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