LOWDOWN ON LOW
Hi chaps!! Every week I'll be writing a short review of anything that tickles my fancy for you good folks at BowieWonderworld. This weeks album under scrutiny is LOW by... David Bowie no less!!
Considered by many at the time as the sound of the 21st century twenty-three years early, LOW is today recognised as one of the most influential and revolutionary albums of all time.
Bowie's realisation that life in the cocaine crazed hell of Los Angeles was killing him and his artistry filled him with the burning desire to "clean up" his state of being and create music which would remove himself from the blue eyed plastic soul of YOUNG AMERICANS. Bowie had become the superstar he wasn't ready to be, disgruntled and disillusioned with the premise of fame he yearned for the easygoing ambience of Europe were he could be rid of the demons of LA, rank with the excesses of celebrity and the tate murders. Berlin, with punk godfather Iggy Pop in tow, would be his clinic.
Bowie's first album of the Berlin era (actually recorded in Switzerland) is universally regarded to be the finest of the Bowie-Eno triptych, described by NME back in 77 as the "sound of Sinatra produced by Martian computers". It is half bleak, stark minimalism at its most powerful and subversive, and half robotic pop music, described by Bowie as the sound of himself "struggling to get better". Its despondent lyrics were worlds away from his previous works, the songs deeply personal and chillingly frank. The albums second track, BREAKING GLASS, scrapes from the depths of despair Bowie had been rooted in whilst living in America, the "Don't look at your carpet, I drew something awful on it" lyric recalling the deeply disturbing satanic rituals of devil worship he had flirted with whilst living in LA.
ALWAYS CRASHING IN THE SAME CAR is a macabre ode to a failed suicide attempt in a LA hotel garage, beautifully swathed in hypnotic sonic landscapes, whilst BE MY WIFE is a very direct, mawkish cry for help, a fusion of electronica, bass and keyboard, light years ahead of its time and certainly one of his most under rated singles.
From the sublime beauty of the stirring ambient epic WARSZAWA to the hissing, misery disco overtures of SOUND AND VISION, Bowie's radical and futuristic new sound helped forge the blueprints of modern popular music as we know it.
Bowie was by no means the first to experiment with electronica (Kraftwerk and Neu! had been toying with its nuances for years previously) but he was, nevertheless, a pioneer, and a wholly unlikely one. The idea of an ex androgynous alien rock god suddenly singing sweet philly soul music had been difficult to fathom, but this was, if anything, a more startling development than the latter. A truly bold statement from an artist who's boldness had already been well documented.
LOW isn't simply another incredibly adventurous David Bowie album, its an amazing piece of art which has stood the test of time. An album that spawned a thousand imitators and a million innovators.
Where would Radiohead, Aphex Twin and Squarepusher be right now without it I wonder?
16th July 2001.
BW MB Profile...
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