Top positive review
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"Waiting for the gift of sound & vision."
on 15 July 2016
Following, 'Station To Station,' Bowie abandoned Los Angeles & its myriad temptations, for a return to Europe. There he embraced the new electronic sound coming from Germany & exemplified by such groups as Neu! & Kraftwerk. Within months, he'd produced Iggy Pop's album, 'The Idiot,' & began work on his own. Employing the same rhythm section as on his previous album - George Murray on bass; Dennis Davis on drums; and Carlos Alomar on rhythm guitar - Bowie was also joined by Ricky Gardiner on lead guitar & Brian Eno, a man who'd been dabbling in electronica for some years; first with Roxy Music, then as a solo artist, most especially on 'Another Green World.' Though inspired by Kraftwerk, Bowie did not merely wish to copy their sound but to use electronic instruments to enhance his own music making & explore new sonic landscapes. With Eno & returning producer, Tony Visconti on board, he achieved this & then some!
1. Speed Of Life - A fabulous opener & the first of several instrumentals. (Bowie found writing lyrics difficult during this period & kept them to a minimum on this record.) Its use of distorted snare drums & buzzing synthesizers is an indicator of what's to come.
2. Breaking Glass - Short, experimental & barely even a song! I do find it strangely compelling, which may have something to do with its bizarre lyrics... "Don't look at the carpet; I drew something awful on it."
3. What In The World - Iggy Pop, Bowie's great travelling companion & fellow addict, provides backing vocals on my least favourite track but it's still a good listen.
4. Sound & Vision - "Pale blinds drawn on day..." A fantastic single, which ascended to the dizzy heights of number 3 in the charts! It is, however, unusually structured for a hit single, as the opening line doesn't appear until halfway through. The lyrics are also quite sombre & introspective, detailing a difficult period in Bowie's life but the music is glorious! Layered washes of synthetic strings; emotive backing vocals: the insistent plish of cymbals, all come together to provide a wonderful listening experience.
5. Always Crashing In The Same Car - Apparently based on an incident in which Bowie wrote off his Mercedes while drunk, it's a wonderfully barmy song! It features a great lead guitar part from Ricky Gardiner.
6. Be My Wife - The second & last single from the album, which - Incredibly! - failed to chart, begins with a barrelling bar-room piano. The lyrics suggest that Bowie Is searching for some permanence in his life; a wish to settle down to some kind of normalcy.
7. A New Career In A New Town - A bustling instrumental with a great harmonica part from Bowie & the robotic pulse of a Kraftwerk-esque synthesizer.
8. Warszawa - Clocking in at six & a half minutes, it's the longest track on 'Low' but what a piece of music it is! It would seem to be Bowie & Eno's attempt to create an electronic tone-poem; music that expresses one's feelings about a particular place. The place here being Warsaw. Bowie paints a dark and forbidding picture of the Polish capital but there's a wonderful moment when his voice breaks through the bleak introspection to sing in an unknown language. Bowie taking delight in the sound itself rather than its meaning.
9. Art Decade - The most beautiful of the instrumentals, in my opinion. It has a haunting sound, which is enhanced by a cello & is Bowie's reaction to West Berlin & its decaying art & culture.
10. Weeping Wall - A discordant sound, with guitar, piano, xylophones & vibraphones competing for attention. Bowie seems to be wailing at the pain of separation caused by the building of the Berlin Wall.
11. Subterraneans - Ambient, mysterious, disturbing & melancholic, the music helps conjure up an image of a lost people. Bowie's saxophone is muted & though he breaks into song at the end, nothing can quite dispel the mood of darkness & despair. It is yet another superb piece of music & a fitting conclusion to the album!
On its release, 'Low' was misunderstood by many a music critic, with some actively hating it! To them it seemed Bowie had turned his back on rock music for some pretentious, inauthentic, electronic art-music minimalism. What they failed to realise was that Bowie & his collaborators had created the sound of the future; a template for the next generation of British rock & pop stars to follow.