Monday, January 11, 2016

Goodbye Spaceboy

"Sometimes I feel
The need to move on
So I pack a bag
And move on"

Can't believe Bowie has taken that final train.

David Bowie's music has been part of my life pretty much since I started listening to pop music seriously. Lodger was the first Bowie album I listened to all the way through. It's probably his most under-appreciated album. It's funny to think that back then in 1979 Bowie was dismissed as past it, a boring old fart who should be swept aside by the vital surge of post-punk bands. Because those bands were raised on Ziggy, they were taught to dance by the Thin White Duke and they learnt that moodiness from listening to Low in darkened bedrooms too many times.

Even if you don't listen to Bowie, probably your favourite bands did. If they style their hair or wear make up, they listened to Bowie. If they play synths they listened to Bowie. If they make dance music for awkward white boys at indie discos they listened to Bowie. If they lurk in shadows smoking cigarettes in their videos they listened to Bowie. That's a large part of his legacy.

The other thing about Bowie is that his back catalogue has something for pretty much everybody. People who loved Ziggy Stardust might loath the plastic soul phase. Hardly anybody gets Hunky Dory; but for some fans it's their favourite album. My favourite is the first side of "Heroes" and the second side of Low, but that whole stretch from Young Americans to Lodger is a seam of sustained musical invention unparallelled by any other pop act. (Judicious picking of collaborators is an art in itself.)

Of course, there was a long fallow period. Tin Machine weren't as bad as we thought at the time, but the drum'n'bass was too 'Dad dancing at a wedding reception' for comfort. So it was a relief when he finally started producing decent albums again. Heathen has some lovely moments. The Next Day was something of a return to form (although a bit too long to be a classic). Then there's Blackstar.

It's almost as though Bowie hung on just long enough that Blackstar would be reviewed as his latest album, rather than his last one. The four and five star reviews earned through merit rather than the mawkishness which would have accompanied a posthumous release. And it really is pretty good. When I first heard the title track it sounded like Bowie was taking a cue from Scott Walker's latter period: edgy, experimental and deliberately designed not to be fan pleaser. But, unlike Walker, Bowie can't do wilfully unlistenable. Even in the midst of all that drone and skronk there are tunes. He can't help himself, his pop sensibility is too strong. Which is why I've already listened to Blackstar more times than I've listened to Bish Bosch.

So, farewell David Bowie. We're all going to miss you terribly. "May God's love be with you."

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home