32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
a superb album from two art-rock legends!,
By A Customer
This review is from: Low (Audio CD)
way back in '77, david bowie decided to skip the punk battlefield altogether and relocate to the decadent city of berlin, taking smack-buddy iggy pop with him. the wacky duo had two things in mind: getting off the junk, and wrenching an album or two out of their drug-ravaged corpses. after producing and generally helping out on pop's first (and very good) solo album 'the idiot', bowie teamed up with legendary funny-noise-effects man brian eno to create 'low', the first album in his 'berlin' trilogy.
the album is basically spilt into two halves (side one and two, if it were vinyl); the first half consists of tracks with vocals. these are all three-minute blasts of germanic pop perfection, with interestingly textured, melodic arrangements that camouflage the often bleak and dark lyrics- but i'll come back to that later. iggy pops up (no pun intended) on vocals for 'what in the world'. the classic 'sound and vision' is here as well, with it's great guitar hook. while listening to this album, it really struck me that bowie's backing band are really quite good, especially carlos alomar on the guitar. the short, punchy and strangely desperate 'breaking glass' is great as well. side one is book-ended by two bouncy, poppy instrumentals with great hooks and melodies, 'speed of life' and 'a new career in a new town'.
side two is the instrumental side, consisting of four tracks that run together for about twenty minutes as one gloomy, bleak and incredibly atmospheric suite of music: 'warszawa' (and no, i don't know how to say it either), 'art decade', 'weeping wall' and 'subterraneans'. the sound reminds me of german electro-wizards kraftwerk. when i read in a review that half of 'low' was instrumental, i was a bit put off, thinking i'd be bored after about three minutes. but the amazing thing is, there's never a dull second here.
i'd just like to have a brief moan about something, though; brian eno was probably responsible for the majority of 'low', and definitely responsible for the entire second side, yet david bowie manages to fob him off: read the booklet- 'all songs by david bowie'. not very fair. eno must feel a bit cheated. that's the only thing i don't like about bowie; he picks some great sidemen (robert fripp, eno, mick ronson, etc) who obviously have major songwriting input, then hardly gives 'em any credit.
getting back to the lyrics, 'low' contains some of bowie's most personal thoughts and feelings, generated by his state of mind at the time: cocaine was ruining him, and he'd just split from his wife, angie. the reason why I didn't mention 'always crashing in the same car' and 'be my wife' from side one earlier is because even though the arrangements are very good and really suit the mood, it's the lyrics that really hit hard. even the titles seem desperate and dead-end- 'always crashing in the same car'. the first two lines of 'be my wife' are "sometimes you get so lonely/ sometimes you get nowhere".
thanks to wondrous 21st century technology, 'low' has been digitally remastered and three previously unreleased bonus tracks from that period have been added. 'some are' is pretty unremarkable, I think, but the creepy, churning instrumental track 'all saints' fits in perfectly and carries on the atmosphere of the whole album very well. there's a new, longer version of 'sound and vision', remixed especially for the cd re-release that's every bit as good as the original.
i can't compare 'low' to any of bowie's other works- this is my first bowie cd- but i am told by the more informed that it ranks as one of his best. certainly, as a stand-alone album, it's very, very good. it really does capture the gloomy, bleak, morbid decadedence of a post-war berlin and is very atmospheric. i'd recommend it to bowie virgins and veterans alike, as well as anyone into early kraftwerk, can or sixties/seventies kraut-rock. if you liked iggy's 'the idiot' (and if you didn't, you should do!), which i mentioned right at the start of this review, 'low' is a good buy. and that works vice-versa.
overall, one of the most scary, dark, atmospheric and bleak records to come out of the seventies. well done bowie AND eno AND the backing band! five stars *****.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 6 Jul 2009 13:30:10 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 Jul 2009 13:32:09 BDT
"i can't compare 'low' to any of bowie's other works- this is my first bowie cd"
Very well-informed review for a Bowie first timer!
Only one or two things to correct: most of Low was actually recorded in France and then mixed in Berlin (all of "Heroes" was recorded in Berlin in the famous Hansa studios).
Most of the album was already recorded when Eno came along and did his - well, Enoing, sprinkling the tracks with his EMS synthesizer.
Warszawa, however, was very much his composition, Bowie "wrote" and did only the vocal mid-section. I can't remember whether Eno was credited for Warszawa on the original LP release, but he certainly should have been / should be now.
I agree completely with your valuation of Bowie's backing band on this and several other records: Alomar, Dennis Davis and George Murray form, in my opinion, a very underrated, very strong unit.
Go an check out "Heroes", a great follow-up (you probably have by now :-))
In reply to an earlier post on 19 Oct 2009 15:44:28 BDT
Actually, Eno was credited as a co-composer when Low was first released on vinyl, but the credits didn't state that the music was his and that only the words were by Bowie.
Posted on 5 Feb 2012 22:56:08 GMT
Gary Longden says:
Your criticism regarding Eno is harsh.
Bowie has always acknowledged Enos contribution, but thye were Bowie compositions and he was the driving artistic force.
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