#206: Low, David Bowie
The fourth David Bowie album we’ve reviewed, but for some reason I was still shocked to learn that this was the eleventh studio album he ever released. Eleven?? Keep forgetting that musicians sometimes outlive their youth— I remembered that Blackstar, which was released in 2016 when he was 69, had pretty stellar reviews.
I was really taken with the story behind this album when I read a little bit about Bowie’s experience with cocaine addiction. After recording three albums coked up out of his mind (apparently he doesn’t even remember recording the bulk of Station to Station, #52), Bowie moved to Europe with my favorite punk rock nightmare, Iggy Pop of the Stooges. The two were addicted to drugs and decided to make a big change with the intent to make music and sober up.
If you didn’t know that Bowie was getting sober during this time, you would think that he recorded it on huge amounts of psychedelic drugs. It sounds like a concert of cyborgs smashing things together.
Not only did Bowie record several albums of his own, he produced two awesome Iggy Pop records during this period. Bowie actually refused to tour for Low and instead went on tour with Pop and played in his backing band!
So, an incredible album with a wild story. Also, just to mention it, the cover artwork is a still of David Bowie from the movie The Man Who Fell to Earth. He looks like he could be starring in the most recent Dune movie. (Speaking of, bring Sting back for Dune Pt. 2!)
“Speed of Life” — Like Bowie had been putting on a concert for a bunch of aliens, and one of them started recording.
“Breaking Glass” — Dark lyrics with trulyWILD vocal tone, nothing like what David Bowie sounds like. You’re such a wonderful person/But you’ve got problems.
“What in the World” — Second song in a row about women that intimidate him.
“Always Crashing in the Same Car” — This title made me feel so dark and seen. Inspired by a real thing that happened to Bowie — he crashed his car into a drug dealer’s car.
“Be My Wife” — Ragtime pianos! Okay, he definitely sounds less coked up on this one.
“A New Career in a New Town” — I wasn’t really prepared for half of this to be an instrumental album, but I was shocked at how distinct all the lyric-less tracks were. This one literally sounds like the soundtrack of someone starting a new career in a new town — which, yes, is exactly what Bowie did. In fact, this album kicked off what some refer to as Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy, even though they were mostly recorded in France.
“Weeping Wall” — Yes, it’s about the Berlin Wall. Is that a xylophone?
“Subterraneans” — Originally written for The Man Who Fell to Earth.
LEAST FAVORITE SONGS:
“Art Decade” — Ahhhh, it’s a play on “art deco.” Very clever. This was the only one that didn’t grab me as being darkly beautiful — I just thought it was boring.
IS RS FULL OF IT?
Like I said, I was not prepared for this album, but I absolutely loved it. I also am a sucker for a record with a good story. This one not only had a great backstory, but it sounds like a concept album. We have one more Bowie album on the list, but it’s not for a while, so give this one a few close listens before we move on.