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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 23 January 2008
Don't like to say best, as that's a matter of opinion, but this is the Bowie album I find I return to the most and rewards repeated listens. I think it captures a certain period in music history when punk/new wave was giving way to New Romantic/electronic better than any other album I can think of. Ashes To Ashes is my favourite ever Bowie song, a true gem, and Teengae Wildlife is another fave, one of his most underrated tracks. I think it's true that this was the last truly great Bowie album (he did some great stuff later but this is where he peaked), but I just find that this album encapsulates everything about Bowie's style and sound better than any other album. Wonderful.
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on 17 August 2005
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.
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on 9 February 2016
Another outstanding album. Fripp's work on this album is also noteworthy especially on Fashion. So far ahead of it's time it still feels relevant today and Bowie's sardonic humour and observations still cut it. Love this...
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on 18 May 2016
David Bowie's 14th studio album is regarded as one of his very best with 4 distinctive singles - the title track as well as 'Up The Hill Backwards', the punchy 'Fashion' and the sublime 'Ashes To Ashes'. Bowie's style of art rock/New wave perfectly captures the mood of the early 1980's and the high quality of material is not merely restricted to the aforementioned foursome; 'Teenage Wildlife' - one of several tracks which utilizes the skills of the highly talented guitarist Robert Fripp - is a Bowie classic and 'It's No Game (No 2)', which completes this album, is also quite brilliant. I'm really glad I caught up with this release ~ better late than never I suppose!
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on 23 May 2004
Im only 16 an i've recently discovered the music of David Bowie so I bought the Best Of Bowie Compilation. On the Best of Bowie compilation i found 3 songs on it that i played over and over again, Ashes To Ashes, Scary Monsters & Fashion. So I bought the album Scary Monsters, were these three songs come from.
This album is a true classic and i'm really happy that i bought it. Its hardly been off since i bought it. But what can I say about the album that hasnt been sed in 1980. Well nothing. Im gonna judge this album as if it came out now. Actually i can't do that because its so 1980s so ignore what I just sed.
This album still is cutting edge now as it probaly was then. My favourite songs off the album are the title track, Scary Monsters, It's No Game(Both Parts) and Up the Hill Backwards, but I love all the songs of this album. Its also encouraged me to want to buy Diamond Dogs and Hunky Dory. So I will be buying them when i save up. My only complaint about this album is that it is too short. But because he was releasing new CDs nearly every year, I understand why its so short.
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on 17 October 2007
I pretty much agree with all Jason P said above, although I think the whole thing from beginning to end is fabulous. Agreed, the old "Side 2" takes a while to appreciate, but gets better and better with each listen. I love the sound of this, it's got that late New York 70s feel, nodding to Television and Talking Heads in particular, and Fripp's exceptional guitar playing on the title track is worth the price alone. Unfortunately this version omits the 4 bonus tracks on the Ryko, which is a great pity because they enhance the album. Try and get the 1991 reissue if you can but failing that, this remains essential listening.
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VINE VOICEon 14 January 2013
His last LP with RCA and the last work for many years with Tony Visconti. 1980 and this is where I came in as a Bowie fan. I had heard "UP THE HILL BACKWARDS" and asked my mate for a copy of the lp. It wasn't long before I bought my own vinyl copy. This and the next lp, Let's Dance (1983) would prove to be the parents of his biggest singles, 4 off this album and 3 off Let's Dance Let's Dance (later pressings of LET'S DANCE also include UNDER PRESSURE BY QUEEN & BOWIE)). 2 singles off Scary Monsters vanished without making much impact on the UK charts, but Fashion and Ashes To Ashes (what an amazing video) did very well. Lyrically bleak, musically disturbing and loud it gels to make one of the best rock albums in the world...ever !!!

The following info is designed to help new-comers to point them in the right direction for their own tastes.
The No. * rating is very personal to me and these ratings have never really changed in all the 33 years I've been listening to Bowie. They are how I rate the whole LP/cd compared to other BOWIE output.
During 1990 and 1991 EMI released digitally remastered cds under the title of "SOUND + VISION". Most had bonus tracks... some tracks are poor but some are worth getting.
The following list is not definitive but points out the most accessible cds to newbies of Bowie.

1967 DAVID BOWIE - try getting the DELUXE EDITION, or DERAM ANTHOLOGY (not as complete but a good collection). 60's pop / whimsical / musical hall / very folk. 2*
1969 SPACE ODDITY - Electric folk / folk / soft rock - just like Hunky Dory 5*
1970 - THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD - Rock / hard rock - not unlike early Black Sabbath. 4*
1971 - HUNKY DORY - Folk / folk rock - just like Space Oddity 5*
1972 - The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (aka ZIGGY STARDUST) Rock / glam rock 4*
1973 - ALADDIN SANE - Rock / glam rock 3.5*
1973 - PIN-UPS - 60's cover versions in rock / glam style. 2*
1974 - DIAMOND DOGS. An Orwellian style, bleak lyrics, up-beat rock and shades of soul hidden within. 5*
1974 - DAVID LIVE - The soul is starting to come thru. Not rock, more funk in style but without the funk... confusing !! 1*
1975 - YOUNG AMERICANS - Soul / funk 3*, but every time I play it I think hang on, this is 5* (confused again !!). Try and get the version with, "Who can I be now?", "it's gonna be me" & "John, I'm only dancing, again".
1976 - STATIONTOSTATION - The start of electronics can be heard here. Soul / soft rock 5* at least.
1977 - LOW - and enter BRIAN ENO. This is my fave LP. Bleak, depressing, alienation and very electronic with quiet rock . 5* at least. Also see "Heroes".
1977 - "HEROES" - and BRIAN ENO. This is one of my fave LPs. Bleak, depressing, alienation and very electronic with quiet rock . 5* at least. Also see LOW.
1978 - STAGE - live and brilliant but with fade-outs and gaps between songs. 4*. Life is tried to be pumped into some tunes which are, for me, left more barren and desolate.
1979 - LODGER - and more BRIAN ENO. A right mishmash of sounds and tunes. Took me years to get into this LP. 3* Pop (in a word).
1980 - SCARY MONSTERS & SUPER CREEPS - and this is where I came in. Rock with hints of funk, depression and it contains "Up The Hill Backwards"... my all-time fave single (strange choice I know, especially when I adore Bohemian Rhapsody)
1983 - LET'S DANCE. Disco-esque / soft rock. 4*. This is Bowie's biggest selling LP.
1984 - TONIGHT. See LET'S DANCE but only 1*.
1987 - NEVER LET ME DOWN - see TONIGHT but 2*
1989 91 - TIN MACHINE 1 & 2. Rock. Both 3*
1993 - BLACK TIE /WHITE NOISE Rock/pop with hints of modern R&B. 2*
1995 - 1.OUTSIDE. God I was wetting myself to hear this when I heard it was the return of BRIAN ENO. God I was disappointed. It's a story (a murder mystery) with only patches of brilliant music. 1*
1997 - EARTHLING. Not knowing what drum & bass is, the making of this cd documentary kept referring to it an D&B. I never got into it. 2*
1999 - HOURS... - pop / soft rock 5*
2002 - HEATHEN - pop / soft rock 4*
2003 - REALITY. Omg, it's 10 years old now. I hadn't realised he had a new cd out upon my return after a holiday. So it went into the shopping trolley my wife was pushing and it has never been very far away from the cd player. For me, I can hear shades of ALADDIN SANE. Pop / rock 5*
2013 - THE NEXT DAY. 4* Hard, Heavy Rock with a few lighter moments.
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on 27 February 2006
This album begins with “It’s no Game” (4.17) which has at the start the sound of a vacuum cleaner or is it a sink filling with water?
The rattle of a castanet or is that a can of spray paint being shaken?
It sounds like some angry snake which launches the opening track, the song is built around an ambient snare drum that beats constantly throughout that along with the bass adding the backbone to the song along with the rhythm guitar which plays just behind the rhythm section then Bowies counts off 1,2 1,2,2 the vocals start gone is the usual croon here we have a screamed vocal that starts with the opening line “Silhouettes and shadows watch the revolution” his singing is done with urgency and he is trying to out scream a Japanese singer who is repeating the lines that Bowie sings in Japanese the sound of the guitar adds further tension to the track sounding very metallic the tension brought about by the lead guitar is sweeten by the backing chorus of voices sounds like a barber shop quartet, all o-o-o-o and a-a-a-‘s, the song ends with Bowie telling us to shout up repeated twice on the second repeat it sounds like the tape slips and the track ends.
Up The Hill back wards (3.14) starts with the sound of acoustic guitar along with the sound of a triangle which chimes along with the sound of the snare played on the off beat with the sound of rhythm guitar adding the melody that is further enhanced by piano.
This leads to “The vacuum created by the arrival of freedom, and the possibilities it seems to offer” on the chorus of “Yea, yea, yea, - up the hill backwards, it’ll be alright ooo-ooo” the snare sounds after the word yea, this gives the chorus more punch and drama for an otherwise run of the mill song until the guitar solo towards the climax of the track.
Now for “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (5.11) which is held together by the lead guitar, which adds the drama along with the steady acoustic guitar which is the counterpoint to the lead guitar.
Drum sticks are hit together at the back of that is someone sliding their hand down the neck of a guitar, and then counting off 1, 2 crack of the snare and the throbbing of the bass guitar, lead guitar runs lead to the main vocal which is done in stylised cockney delivery starts with “She had a horror of rooms she was tried you can’t hid beat”, as the song rumbles on the chorus is given more menace by the use of metallic percussion at the back of lines starting with “She began to wail jealousies screams, Waiting at the lights know what I mean, Scary Monsters, super creeps, Keep me running, running scared” this is maintained until the guitar solo on the fade out.
“Ashes to Ashes”(4.23) is Bowie at his pop best multi-layered keyboards set against treated guitars, the song is a wash with the sound of synthesizer, the track up-dates the story of Major Tom who is a character from another of Bowies songs “Space Oddity”.
The song itself which starts with synth and bass along with the sound of maracas and drums being played on the off beat and treated piano that sounds on the end of the opening line “Do you remember a guy been”.
Fashion (4.48) begins with what sounds like backwards metallic percussion which allows guitar to start, with the opening line “There’s a brand new dance but I don’t know its name”, in this song “Fashion” is the perfect anti-disco song, as it utilises a classic irresistible dance beat discreetly treated with guitar interruptions that sound like an early-warning alert.
“Teenage Wildlife” (6.54) is a sprawling song that for too long has been regarded as an inferior cousin to the song “Heroes” this possibly because of the opening guitar sound, which sounds not dissimilar to the song “Heroes”.
The song “Scream like a Baby” (3.35) begins with cowbell and a huge rhythm section that has a wall of keyboards that creates the perfect place for the opening line of “Well I wouldn’t buy no merchandise, And I wouldn’t fight no war, And I mixed with other colours, But the nurse doesn’t care, And I hid under blankets, Or did I run away, I really can’t remember, Last time I saw the light of day”.
The song “Kingdom Come” (3.44) is the only cover song and was written by Tom Verlaine, Bowie has used a drum track with a tambourine placed on the snare along with the guitar to dance in between the bass and drums with the melody of the song played by the rhythm guitar now Bowie sings a very over blown vocal that in the context of this track works well with the sound of crashing sibyls to add a sense of urgency to the delivered lines.
“Because You’re Young” begins with Pete Townsend playing his signature suspended chords to introduce the track with Bowie commenting on the past trifles of youth, the guitar sound is played against keyboards and drums and bass Bowie croons “Psychodelicate girl – come out to play, little metal faced boy – don’t stay away, He’s war torn and resigned – she can’t take anymore” the keyboard plays against the vocal arrangement that has at the back of the main singing an answering chorus repeating the lines, the track fades with Pete Townsend’s guitar disappearing into the distance.
To close off the album there is a re-worked version of the opening track “It’s no Game (part 2)” (4.22) finds the singer and the band exhausted after the intensity of the sonic bruising they’ve just administered, all is quite and calm.
Scary Monsters is a devastating album, the work of a man at the height of his powers an essential part of a Bowie collection.
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on 30 April 2011
I was lucky enough to be the younger brother. So in 1980 I had a teenage older sister who had Fashion and Scary Monsters on 7", and she had a friend with a Bowie fixation. Everything was going to be alright.

Fashion's 'woop woop woop' opening was mesmerizing. Scary Monster's howling at the moon lyrics - even for an 8 year old - were fascinating. Ashes To Ashes with the David 'doyenne of the 80s pop video' Mallett video that made NO sense, but had weird scenes of a broken Major Tom.

Nothing could have prepared me for the album they came off, but that was another 10 years....

Scary Monsters really is the culmination of everything Bowie had been doing until that time. It seems, to me anyway, a summation. Angular, aggressive, disturbing, paranoid, funky. Its No Game is genre-wise unplaceable, the screeching oriental words, the screeching Bowie singing, the screeching guitar of Robert Fripp.

The last truly groundbreaking album Bowie produced (well with a run like his it had to end sometime) - Scary Monsters was all about the new 80s utopian dawn. Bowie had caught on to the new romantic era, and had Steve Strange in his video for Ashes To Ashes to prove it, but he also looked back, and even tipped his clown hat to Major Tom. Shame the rest of the 80s didn't sound like this. Maybe thats why his 'mother' is scalding him on the beach in the Ashes To Ashes video. Mum's always know what you're about to do even before you've done it.

4 star ONLY because of all 3 singles coming one after the other. Awful mistake.
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on 8 May 2010
Despite its alt-rock/punkish influences, side one of this album is actually very commercial and probably self-consciously so. In fact every album after Low and Heroes seems to be packed with potential singles. On Scary Monsters, 'Fashion' is a clear single (and a very annoying one at that after repeated listenings). 'Ashes to Ashes' is a masterstroke though: both artistically (probably the best single he ever released) and commercially (only his second number one). Bowie's genius is making you think that he is a left-field outsider producing art rock for an intellectual minority whilst at the same time racking up the hit singles and raking in the dosh.

People very rarely mention the fact that Bowie totally reinvented his voice yet again for this whole album - affecting a slack-jawed singing style which fits perfectly with the undercurrents of paranoia and impotence which seem to permeate the tracks. There is a definite effort to unify the album musically and thematically which seems to be a reaction against the less successfull pot pourri of styles on its predecessor ' Lodger'. The Japanese vocals on 'It's no Game are both arresting and powerful and, although lengthy, 'Teenage Wildlife' is filled with fine guitarwork and insightful lyrics by a man who was realising that the world had caught up with him. The only weaknesses for me are the slightly disappointing 'Because You're Young' on a second side which gradually peters out of energy, but then has Bowie ever produced two flawless sides since Hunkydory or Diamond Dogs?
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