Simon Says...


When considering and analysing Bowie's artistic output, looking back on the sheer enormity of his work, certain albums (or indeed periods!) tend to be unforgivably overlooked.

1993 is without question David Bowie's forgotten year, a year which produced not one but TWO incredible albums (Lets not forgot the excellent Buddha Of Suburbia 'sondtrack'!) which in hindsight rest comfortably alongside his greatest achievements of the 1970's.

1993 saw a recharged and confident Bowie eager to get back on track, an astute and world weary artist who was finally at ease with life, no longer searching for direction. Revving up for another attack on the senses, Bowie had finally found his prolific and intensely creative streak which had deserted him throughout the meltdown of the 1980's. After the supposed nadir of Tin Machine, Bowie had been written off, discarded and ridiculed by the music press who regarded him a spent force. It had become fashionable to disregard Bowie and his achievements. The 90's pop culture was dominated by youthful promise and the boom of the dance culture. It wasn't just Bowie who was being overlooked and criticised, it was the entire era that he stood for. Britpop was around the corner and Indie music(rock played with a smile by successful 20 something year old big brothers) was the sound of today. Bowie was yesterday's hero, without question.

The Tin Machine experiment was fresh in peoples minds and had done the dames name a great dis-service. Bowie was the guy who had fucked up the ability to write a clever, incisive, interesting and catchy song. How? By articulating middle aged crisis in tragic fashion. Indulging in 3 years of noisy, experimental garage rock with 2 insane Iggy casualties and a piss poor guitarist. Judgement passed by people who'd only heard this, not concluded it for themselves.

Tin Machine is a different story, and a lengthy one!! A venture that had its shortcomings but also its benefits (Piss poor guitarist?!!) which we won't focus on here!

Bowie's blatant 'f**k off' to all who cared to care had given most people the impression that he'd completely and unashamedly abandoned his desire to be cutting edge. It was apparent that Bowie had lost the genius to produce music of a quality which could be compared to past works, comparisons delivered without a snigger or a sense of profound irony permeating the air.

It was in this climate that Bowie released his first solo album since 1987, the first album to carry the 'Bowie' name for 6 years, an eon in music industry terms. Bowie went into the studio undeniably in love and with an anticipation of a happy future that would be embodied in the album he would produce. Bowie wasn't aiming to change the world with his words or his music, BLACK TIE WHITE NOISE was to be a celebration of his new found happiness and the sanctity he had found through marriage.

BTWN is a very personal album, many people comment on how they feel they are listening to an record which isn't meant to be heard by us mere mortals, BTWN intended for the calming influence in his life, Iman, who is forever immortalised by a heady, yet sweet tasting cocktail of uncharacteristic joyful exuberance tinted with misty eyed reflection.

Depending on your viewpoint BTWN is either a shamefully naff, overzealous and trite ode to the blatantly obvious, or a beautifully executed testament to love in all its splendid perfection. To appreciate BTWN is to take pleasure in the authors happiness and to be infected by it, Its poignant intimacy and immeasurable beauty is a celebration of all that making music should be about.

BTWN isn't cloaked in ambiguity, its amazingly frank, which some perceive as being refreshing whilst others find it hollow, unnaturally fake and shallow. I prefer to think of it as the former. The album is deceptively simple yet very clever, its strength coming from its determined resolve to document a lasting memorial to inner fulfilment and contentment shared between two lovers.

The greatest works of art are often produced when the intentions behind them are quite modest. I believe that BTWN echoes these sentiments exactly.


May 2002.

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