Monday, August 20, 2012
Bowie's Lost Gem
There is an article in the new Mojo about how electonic music saved David Bowie. It's not very good. I got the impression that the writer Jon Savage knew more about the genre than he did about Bowie himself. He says little new about the man, and what he does say he seems to get wrong. Well, just slightly, but enough to annoy me. I'll get to that in a sec.
What Savage did do was get me to revisit Bowie's 1993 release, "The Buddha Of Suburbia," a record that never really felt like a proper release at the time, possibly because it came out so soon after another Bowie album, the forgotten gem "Black Tie, White Noise," or maybe I just thought "Buddha" was Bowie's attempt to get on the current techno bandwagon of the time. It's better than that. Much, much better.
In the article, Savage calls Bowie's minor 1995 hit "Hallo Spaceboy," "Hello Spaceboy." He also makes mention of the "5 songs on Side One of 'Low'." There are 7. And when talking about title track of "The Buddha Of Suburbia" he says it "collages the riff from Space Oddity and the chorus from All The Madmen." It doesn't. It uses the refrain on the coda of "All The Madmen"--"Zane zane zane, ouevre le chien"---and unless you call 4 strummed chords on a bridge a "riff," he got that wrong, too. Am I splitting hairs? Maybe, but as I said, it was enough to annoy me.
While "Buddha Of Suburbia" doesn't quite reach the brilliant heights of "Low" & "Heroes," I find it to be a much stronger record than "Lodger" or "Scary Monsters." There may not be any songs on "Buddha" as strong as "Boys Keep Swinging" or "Ashes To Ashes," but a few come close, and it plays better as a whole. Like "Low" and "Heroes," it offers both vocal and instrumental tracks. It is less jarring than "Lodger" and "Monsters," and after paying it a visit after not doing so for close to 20 years, I found "Buddha Of Suburbia" to be a step ahead of the thumping electronic and techno music that was invading the charts at the time. It feels like the proper "third part" of the Berlin Trilogy, that started with "Low" and continued with "Heroes."