It must be very hard being David Bowie and all the time being compared to your brilliant past. In the period 1971-1980 no other artist could even come close to his inventiveness and importance. His output during these years is arguably more diverse and influential than even that of the Beatles. I "discovered" Bowie through Scary Monsters when I was 16 and I can say that no other piece of art (whether it is Bachs "Goldberg Variations", Dostoevsky's great novels, David Lynch's movies, or anything else) has made such a profound impression on me.
The album is a perfect blend of the avant-garde of "Low" and "'Heroes'", the funk of "StationToStation", and the rock of "Diamond Dogs". The opening "It's No Game" is a shock; the Japanese lyrics spit out "samurai-style" by a Japanese woman, Bowie's shrieking over-the-top vocals (listen to the way he sings "There's no free steps to heeeeaaaaveeeen" after approximately one minute, it is the most desperate cry I have ever heard), Robert Fripps extreme guitar, and Dennis Davis violent drumming makes for an unforgettable experience. A well-known Norwegian author likened the impression one gets from the one of seeing Edvard Munch's "The Scream", which is a very good analogy; bold, seemingly simple strokes conveying desperation and anxiety. There are several other songs of the same quality: the sublime (and well-known) "Ashes to Ashes" (a continuation of "Space Oddity"), the extremely funky "Fashion", the uncompromising rock'n roll of the song "Scary Monsters", and the anthemic "Teenage Wildlife" (reminiscent of "'Heroes'", but in my view even better). Even the weaker tracks would be outstanding on 99% of other rock albums. Finally, the lyrics are great and for once feel very personal. To make a long story short, this album has no weak spots whatsoever.
Unfortunately, after hitting this peak, the rest of the 80's went artistically (if not commercially) downhill for Bowie. During the whole of the last 15 years he has been struggling to regain is integrity and has produced a lot of high quality material (check out "Black Tie White Noise" (1993), "Outside" (1995), "Earthling" (1997), or "Heathen" (2002)). Unfortunately, a lot of people won't give these albums a listen because they either (old fans) thinks he is "passed it" or (younger people) assumes he is another boring old fart like for example Elton John or Rolling Stones.