HEY! Get updates to this and the CD and 7" blogs via Twitter: @VinylUnderbite

2 April 2010

David Bowie - 'Low' (RCA)

The late '70s Bowie records are enduring favorites among art-rock scholars, Britheads who wear weird sunglasses and people who spend a lot of money on shoes. It's funny when listening to Low now because I don't really know where to place it. I don't think it's an amazing experimental depature but it is definitely cold and alienated. It's a tale of two sides though, positively Lorcalike in it's distinction. The 'rock' side, A, feels pointedly futurist, with a weird (yet Eno-driven) band. The instrumentals at the beginning and end are a little too polished for me; Eno's crazy synths (which are detailed in the notes for each track) recall the early Roxy stuff, but much more serious, much more pessimistic even. Though there are some searing guitar bits and occasional stadium-rock flourishes ('Sound and Vision', right??) I generally feel like I'm driving around some shithole Northern European city staring at concrete 90' angles through a dirty backseat window. I know it's probably side 2 that people get excited about, but 7 times out of 10 I'm gonna go for the pop stuff. The second side, well, it's bleak and intense and thick with synths. I think 'Warszawa' sets the tone pretty well, and you can probably argue there's a pretty good Eno/Bowie balance here. 'Weeping Wall' is the solo Bowie track, a rare example of pure experimentation, and the xylophone surely shows the influence of West Coast minimalism. Well, that and the dense, horizontal sound walls. This is a record that has a place in rock history I've never quite felt was something I could get behind; I must say I like party Bowie, so gimme Hunky Dory or Diamond Dogs any day. But I don't own those records; I own this and Lodger which is *not* me trying to show off my art-rock cards (I have enough other examples of that) but purely circumstance: I only got into Bowie in my late 20s (because as a kid I saw a horrible Tin Machine performance on Saturday Night Live and swore him off forever), and thus passed up all the classic glam-pop albums a million times in my record hunting days, only coming across these late in life at flea markets. This was made around the same time as The Idiot and Lust for Life by Iggy Pop and it carries that same hard, dark side of the 70s Eurotrash vibe that I learned to love about those albums. I assume this could grow to be a favourite, but Lodger goes just a bit further and maybe that's why I warmed to that more quickly. This is on the same shitty vinyl as all other RCA releases in the 70s so maybe it would sound better if I heard a decent pressing.

No comments:

Post a Comment