Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Godawful Small Affair: Extra Credit 4 "Tin Machine"

Tin Machine: "TIN MACHINE" (1989)

COVER: Your uncles at any given childhood wedding.

With "Tonight" and "Never Let Me Down" behind us, it's tempting to ignore what Bowie did for the rest of the eighties, as it involves two words that strike fear into the heart of even the most stalwart follower of the Dame: "Machine" and "Tin", not necessarily in that order.  This legendary band were made up of guitarist Reeves Gabrels, a rhythm section comprising brothers Hunt and Tony Sales, and one David Bowie. 

Wanting to make a drastic break from the bloated, ever-so-eighties stadium fodder that his name had latterly become synonymous with, he had decided to retreat into the relative obscurity of being a member of a band, albeit as the lead singer, so not really taking that much of a back seat.  Cue legions of disappointed journalists, as the band also split their media duties in four, meaning three people drew short straws and had to interview a less obviously compelling member of the group.

The project fails on two separate counts.  Firstly, being a product of democracy, it lacks identity, with all the music being easily described as 'general rock'.  It's hard to pick out any songs; other than the title track, which I have previous with involving Christmas dinner and wine-soaked roast potatoes and will therefore literally not be forgotten, however hard I try, and "Baby Can Dance", the arrival of which means you're about to be able to put a different album on.

Secondly, there's a general sense of them wanting to highlight social issues that they have no real insight into; admittedly, Bowie was most likely several miles ahead of the rest of the band in terms of income, but it's to be guessed that the others were no financial slouches either, so hearing them bemoan inner city living conditions or speak of a "Working Class Hero" (also ridiculous in Lennon's hands, but you take the point) rings an empty note, particularly since their general solution seems to be the rather sixties-influenced "everyone's gotta get together, man, and just kinda sort it out, 'cause it's wrong.  Wrong, I tells ya.  And I should know: I'm incredibly rich."

This is, to be fair, a departure in the canon - just not a good one, being an attempt at the kind of earnest, big-money rock 'n' roll that grunge would all but obliterate a few years later.  It also seems to have reviewed well on release, but time and perspective have not been kind to late eighties rock in general and Tin Machine more specifically.

How lucky we are that Bowie recognised this project for the creative dead end it was, and didn't do something odd like announcing he would never play his solo back catalogue again and record a second album with Tin Machine!

Hang on a minute...

Join us next time, when that stuff we just described happens.

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