Monday, July 15, 2013

A Godawful Small Affair: Sixteen "Never Let Me Down"


COVER: In his defence, it WAS the eighties.

Three years have passed since The Album That Shall Not Be Named, and it's finally time for a big comeback.  So after this decade's version of "Pin-Ups" must surely follow another triumphant "Diamond Dogs", another masterpiece of creativity.  Ah, but this is Bowie, and nothing is ever straightforward with that guy.  In this case, that's actually a bad thing...

Including one track that Bowie hated so much I have never heard it ("Too Dizzy", removed from the reissue I have at the man's behest; personally I don't see why he stopped the cull there, as "Tonight" would have made an acceptable EP), "Never Let Me Down" is usually held up as the worst Bowie album.  But it isn't - "Tonight" is, as I told you last time.  However, this is an uninspired, glossy yet ultimately empty offering, a triumph of style over substance, which is a phrase I've been wanting to use ever since I started journalisting.

There's the odd OK track, with the disarmingly sweet title track, the scarily focused "Time Will Crawl",  and even the much-lambasted "Glass Spider" providing solid entertainment, along with "Day-In Day-Out", but you really need to see that with the video, wherein Bowie uses clumsy metaphor to demonstrate a social conscience.  Others are just loathesome; "Zeroes" in particular is so bad it gave me a chest infection.

To put this on the Godzilla scale, where an album like "Station To Station" may compare to a masterpiece like "Terror Of Mechagodzilla", and "Tonight" comes in as the execrable "Godzilla, Minilla, Gabara: All Monsters Attack", this album equates to a low-ranking film from the Showa era, probably a "vs. Gigan" or a "vs. Megalon" - it's good enough, if you absolutely cannot get your hands on something better by the same artist that very second.

If one felt kind, one could probably make a decent argument that some of the criticism this album comes in for should be directed at the Glass Spider Tour rather than the album that inspired.  Full of visual trickery and a dance troupe - including, as promised, "conceptual" crutch-wielder Spazz Attack - that sadly couldn't be seen from the cheap seats, and often accused of having muggy sound, it's considered to be a grand failure. 

From the surviving video evidence, its main problem seems to be an attempt to strike an unsteady balance between big spectacle for the newer fans and artistic endeavour for the more established followers.  That's not to say it's rubbish per se, of course, but the concept doesn't resolve itself in any satisfying sense, which definitely suggests that if you took out all the daftness the shows wouldn't have been hurt, and may arguably have been improved by the greater clarity.

And so we bid adieu to David Bowie, Singer Songwriter and Rock Star.  Unhappy with his direction, and with a hoodlum named Reeves Gabrels in his ear, Our Dave will now attempt to take a step out of the limelight and lose himself in a rock band.  I'll tell you how that worked out soon enough...

Join us next time for - actually I haven't listened to it in a few years, so this bit isn't going to work this time.  To make up for this oversight, we present a picture of a weasel:

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