Saturday, January 14, 2017

Another Green Ziggy

David Bowie : What In The World

I had planned to write quite a bit about the first of David Bowie's 1977 albums, Low. But my son really wanted to go to a Monster Truck rally and here we are approaching my bedtime after a long week. So here goes nothing.

It's a bi-polar effort though isn't it? The first side experimental chock full of avant garde rock n roll. And like the Beach Boys albums of the early 70's, most recordings fade out the moment the ideas run out. The second side reflecting the influence of his collaborator, Brian Eno.

“I knew he liked Another Green World a lot,” Eno told The Guardian’s Michael Watts in 1999. “And he must have realized that there were these two parallel streams of working going on in what I was doing, and when you find someone with the same problems you tend to become more friendly with them.”

Side Two was dismissed by Rolling Stone critic John Milward for its "dabbling" : 

Such technosheen music requires a detached master to hold the reins, and Bowie, the cracked actor, is just too much of a ham. The problem is most glaring when his Latin-mass voices are blended into the lunar mix with the subtlety of ripe blue cheese. ( A reference to "Warszawa").

 Bowie lacks the self-assured humor to pull off his avant-garde aspirations. His role playing long ago blew his detached mystique. Low serves as a moderately interesting conduit through which a wider audience will be exposed to Bowie's latest heroes, and in this sense is an interesting addition to his recorded catalog. More importantly, Low fulfills another of Bowie's requirements -- it again washes clean his audience's expectations and allows him to contemplate his next mask.

The dean, Robert Christgau, gave Low a B+.

I find side one's seven "fragments" -- since the two that clock in at less than 2:45 are 1:42 and 2:20, the term must refer to structure rather than length -- almost as powerful as the "overlong" tracks on Station to Station. "Such a wonderful person/But you got problems" is definitely a love lyric for our time. But most of the movie music on side two is so far from hypnotic that I figure Bowie, rather than Eno, must deserve credit for it. I mean, is Eno really completely fascinated by banality? 

As for Billboard Magazine, mostly read by retailers and radio programmers :

Bowie the multi-instrument master emerges on this disk. The emphasis is on eerie, unusual arrangements for well defined, laid-out instrumental journeys into some brooding, mysterious lands. Bowie's singing is significantly down-played here in favor of the overdubbed instruments including synthesizers and other keyboards. 

Side two is the most adventurous and a stark contrast to the few distorted hard rock cuts on side one. This LP emphasizes Bowie's serious writing efforts which only time can tell will appeal to the people who have watched him go through various musical phases. Best cuts: "Warszawa," "Weeping Wall," "Sound And Vision."

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