Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Latter-Day Bowie

I've been on a bit of a David Bowie trip lately...specifically, latter-day David Bowie, i.e. works produced in the 1990s and beyond. Yes, most purists will argue that Ziggy-era Bowie is the most accomplished, or that Berlin-era Bowie is the most inventive, and will diss the Bowie of the latter era as dilettantish and unfocused, but let me buck the trend here.

While I have huge respect for classics like "Ziggy Stardust", "Starman", "Heroes" and "ashes to Ashes", I still think that the works that Bowie put out in the 1990s are equal in quality to, if not surpassing, the certified standards that everyone else agrees on. The spacey "Thursday's Child" in particular (from 1999's "...hours") is a brilliant summation-in-song of Bowie's feelings about his time in the industry, while the severely underrated "I'm Afraid of Americans" (from 1997's "Earthling") is a powerful indictment of monoculturalism (made even more potent in the mix by Trent Reznor).

Elsewhere, the frankly spooky "The Heart's Filthy Lesson" (from 1995's "Outside", accompanied by a mind-warping video) is Bowie's competent take on industrial rock, and the jazz-noirish "Bring Me the Disco King" (from 2003's "Reality") is arguably his most rounded song from this period, an extended meditation on existentialist angst and ageing. Fantastic stuff, all, although old-time Bowie devotees will disagree vehemently.

Just don't mention 1993's embarrassingly trite "Buddha of Suburbia" soundtrack, and we'll call it even.


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