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Sunday, September 11, 2016

David Bowie: Low (IAS #37)

Kind of sad it wasn't "Heroes", but all in due time, I guess:

David Bowie: Low


  1. I don't envy any critic who has to fashion some form of aesthetic scalpel by which to go analyzing this album--GS being no exception--and being a lifelong Bowie fan myself, one who regards Low as THE great Bowie album, I'm not about to try it either. It's still seems too...early.

    It's amazing how, after hundreds of complete listens (is there any other way to approach a journey like this?), Low is still so deeply surprising and enigmatic to me. No, it does not create much in terms of rock-out pleasure; nor does it nurse any emotions I can smack a label on; much of the latter parts of the album aren't even memorable, as Goerge rightly points out. All I can say for sure is there is some form of otherworldly narrative going on, something neuro-spiritual in nature: an alien Pilgrim's Progress, of sorts. I think of it now as a more genuine rock opera than any others I've heard, one that evolved beyond all the rock & roll kitsch and psychedelic cynicism of Tommy, SF Sorrow, and The Wall (Not that any of those beautiful albums suck!). But the Low experience never belonged in 1977, and it still doesn't belong.

    So here we are, almost 4 decades after its release, Low seems to be slowly growing in stature and reputation; someday, even Ziggy Stardust will probably take a back seat to it -- that's pretty pleasing to the 5th grader in me who knew, way back in 1977, that this album was authentically "important." It made the rock star Bowie into one of the great musical artists.

    So glad to see GS take another crack at it. He missed again, of course, but who wouldn't? It's only 2016 after all.

    1. "the rock & roll kitsch and psychedelic cynicism of Tommy" - So... like... Tommy isn't really rock & roll, but just a kitsch imitation of rock & roll? (So then I guess we're praising Bowie for not even pretending to be rock; but then, if you don't want rock, why are you wasting time on Bowie that you could be spending listening to Pierre Boulez's Répons or La Monte Young's The Well-Tuned Piano or whatever?) Or all rock & roll is kitsch? (See previous parenthetical.) And, either way, Tommy is supposed to cynical? (Tommy is of course almost embarrassingly earnest, but anyway, a Bowie fan leveling accusations of cynicism is like a greenhouse keeper challenging the world to a rock throwing contest.)

      "But the Low experience never belonged in 1977" - Yeah, because Can and Brian Eno already did it between 1970 and 1975.

    2. Must be amazing to have such a relationship with - just about anything, but certainly a musical record, but it takes "some form of aesthetic scalpel" to communicate the essence of that object to another person and that is why GS' reviews are such great reads even if you totally disagree with him or don't even have an opinion on what he is talking about - compared with the quasi-religious "it is too early - a messainic event is required for all you mortals to understand this work, but I in my infinite wisdom have transcended that requirement" pronouncement. You maybe right, maybe GS missed it and the rest of us are doomed to wait forever, but I am not going to hold my breath.

  2. I guess some folks trend toward more enigmatic work. Tommy, especially played live, is one of the great works of rock (Live at Leads with the Tommy set is maybe the high water mark for pure rock out art); but as hard as it rocks and as beautiful as it is in places, its message is pretty non-complex, and yes, cynical: "Good morning wankers!" Being cynical myself, I don't find that perspective wrong, just not mysterious or out of joint with the times. Naive, Drug-fueled idealism of the 60's was dying; Tommy captured it in a rock masterpiece.

    My real point had to do with the fact some works of art take years, decades, even centuries to rise to prominence. Is Low one of these? I don't know, but it is on an upward journey. It's easy to forget that this album -- though it sold well on momentum -- abandon many Bowie fans and critics. Low wasn't disco, prog, punk, or roots rock. No one knew what to make of it. But over the decades I've watched respect for it steadily grow.

    Now, if you denigrate Low for being derivative of the great and groovy jam-mastery of Can or the tech wizardry of Eno, then I'm afraid you've mistaken influence for imitation. I'm Eno literate and appreciate his pioneering ambient sensibilities, but I still feel that Bowie employed Eno better than Eno employed himself. Eno could contribute to something like Low; Eno could not create something like Low. As for Can -- with all due respect -- gimme a break!