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Worth a punt for the good tracks
on 25 October 2009
Of the two Tin Machine albums this is probably the better. While the first album was more consistently produced, this album probably contains the stronger tracks. However, for every belter there is a B-side standard one to match it. So I make it 5 or 6 great tracks out of 12. That alone should be enough to make it a pretty good album by today's standards but the bad tracks are very, very bad. The best songs are great because they are Bowie classics that could sit easily on any of his solo efforts: Baby Universal is a great alien-themed rocker; You Belong in Rock & Roll is a classic Bowie lyric with a smoulderingly understated chorus, and Amlapura would sit well on Lodger with its Indonesian imagery. Shopping for Girls gives us a bit of politics but in a less hectoring way than we find on the earlier Tin Machine track Under the God or Crack City: instead he explores the insidious world of sex tourism and child abuse, a dark theme he would touch upon later on We Prick You on the 1.Outside album. Goodbye Mr Ed, probably the best song of all tries to make sense of a changing world order and the end of the cold war. The remaining tracks are either mediocre or downright unlistenable. One shot sounds like American Rock - let Bon Jovi do that please. Betty Wrong tries too hard to sound wistful. You Can't Talk involves some annoying rapping. A Big Hurt is actually quite a fun throwaway track but seek out the live at the BBC version found on the B side of some of the EP releases from this album - it is a million times better. If There is Something is a pointless Roxy Music cover. The real stinkers are the awful Sorry and Stateside. Neither of these were written or performed by Bowie but are the products of the Tin Machine drummer Hunt Sales. Some reviews say that an album is worth the price of one track alone but in this case I am almost tempted to say that these songs alone almost make the album not worth buying. There is a reason drummers shouldn't be allowed to dominate the procedings and Hunt Sales and Phil Collins both demonstrate why. Had Bowie salvaged the best from these sessions for a solo effort it really would have reloaded his career more convincingly than his much overhyped subsequent solo album Black Tie White Noise did. However, if you can lay your hands on a copy of this album then I recommend you do, just be prepared to use your skip button a lot.