Thursday, August 31, 2006

Before and After Science (1977)

"King's Lead Hat" The ideas of ambience and the Oblique Strategies deck of cards really entered the picture at least two years earlier with Another Green World, often characterized as his best album. So it's no surprise that this is shot through with quirky and lulling abstractions of sound that look forward to the plink-plonk/empty spaces that would largely dominate the rest of his career. They slow the proceedings here, but that said, it must also be noted that the proceedings here are fine enough to overcome anything.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974)

"Third Uncle" Brian Eno's career as pop star, which lasted about as long as a college education, held such promise that I've periodically carried a grudge about the ambientitiousness of what followed and prevailed. Sure, I like Music for Films. I like Music for Airports. But I love this early stuff: the mid-'70s wacked-out, always melodic verse-chorus-versus pure pop magic, which he really attacks, bends and mutilates it every which way, just like you're s'posed to. I'm pretty sure that's a manual typewriter on percussion in "True Wheel." The crazy saxophone charts on "Fat Lady of Limbourgh" are as overweeningly plump as promised. And "Third Uncle" rocks like a mother, all tight forward propulsion momentum. Then you start to notice the jokes.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Low (1977)

"Sound and Vision" We all liked The Man Who Fell to Earth so much that David Bowie went ahead and used it for the covers of two albums that otherwise had little to do with the movie. This one was recorded in Berlin, with both Brian Eno and Iggy Pop -- Eno as co-auteur and Iggy as co-vocalist on one track. Of the three (or four?) collaborations between David Bowie and Brian Eno, Low was first and best. Ideas crackle and the band is tight, and if both sputter some on the second (vinyl LP) side, mostly instrumentals, it's more than redeemed by the seven gems on the first (vinyl LP) side. That would have made an A+++ EP in anyone's book. What's more, The Man Who Fell to Earth was a fine, fine film.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Aladdin Sane (1973)

"The Prettiest Star" By this time David Bowie was everywhere at once, his face the ubiquitous inscrutable mask we've come to expect. Signifying like a power station, but with his best profile to the light always. Mike Garson -- the piano player, who is insane -- is the key here. His crazy playing highlights and unifies and even blunts Bowie's already strained chronic bad habit of incoherent, usually very silly persona hopping. Somehow, the sheer explosive musicality of the sound, the songs and the playing, redeems all the nonsense. Here is a man who has painted a red and blue lightning bolt across his face and never cracks a smile. Imagine how hard we could be laughing. Remember W.A.S.P.?

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The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders From Mars (1972)

"Moonage Daydream" The "narrative arc" tends to stay out of the way of the songcraft, which fact alone salvages the conceptness. Except for an oddly deformed version of "It Ain't Easy," which is little more than a throwaway plot point, this stuff is way beyond mere shtick. The chilling (if, comically, paging Jim Morrison) finish marks the high point in such stunning fashion that you're suddenly left thinking something important just happened. Going back then redeems itself. The short song titles start to make sense purely on their own terms: "Five Years." "Star." "Soul Love."

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hunky Dory (1971)

"Queen Bitch" Take a good look at that mug. You're gonna be seeing it for the rest of your life. You've got an epochal hit with "Ch - Ch - Changes." You've got irresistible cheap drama of "Oh! You Pretty Things" and "Life on Mars?" (Don't miss the liberal use of punctuation.) He paints a lovely family life in "Kooks." Namechecks: Bob Dylan. Andy Warhol. The Bewlay brothers. This is A+, man. All the way.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Man Who Sold the World (1970)

"The Man Who Sold the World" The three covers it's traveled under alone speak volubly of the confusion and wild swings of this daffy, occasionally brilliant outing. David-Bowie-in-a-dress, the last and most enduring, was actually supposed to be the first and only. But, you know, the record companies... (Can someone please explain the cartoon cover? The black and white live shot at least makes sense.) If Kurt Cobain stole the title song, Bowie needn't feel bad. Leadbelly got plucked just as good.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Killer (1971)

"Desperado" Vincent Furnier, God bless his soul, has enjoyed a spectacular and long career in show biz with his vaudeville act. For all we know the best is still to come. But it was shtick by 1975, and the I'm-not-worthy deify that happened even as the first George Bush was still in office... It makes the case of itself for the karma that surpasses all understanding. I'd love to see a chart that tracked Mr. Furnier's LP releases and film appearances, the trajectory of his career, next to one of his golf handicap. Bet he took strokes off all through the '90s.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Slider (1972)

"Ballrooms of Mars" My complaint at the time this came out, head full of fusion and/or blooz and/or Doors, was that all the songs sounded the same. Right. The same. Right. Tell that to Bo Diddley. Tell it to the Ramones. Mythology for cheap: This is where Marc Bolan got his star in heaven, if not the whole constellation. Winning lyric: "John Lennon knows your name And I've seen his."

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Mott (1973)

"Ballad of Mott the Hoople (March 26, 1972, Zurich)" First I liked the inside out libido of "I Wish I Was Your Mother," its plaint nearly overwhelmed by Irony but not quite, and with the beautiful mandolin touches. I often sat through the whole album just to get to that. Then of course the album opener "All the Way From Memphis," which also opened one of those oddball non-gangster Scorcese pictures of the '70s, Alice Doesn't Live Here Any More (which few can forgive for the TV spinoff). Finally, I caught the perfection of the loser apotheosis in "Ballad" with all those amazing lines: "Rock’n’roll’s a loser’s game / It mesmerises and I can’t explain / The reasons for the sights and for the sounds" and "Oh I wish I’d never wanted then / What I want now twice as much."

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Monday, August 14, 2006

First Post

Ya, the starts come tentative. Figuring out the technology like squinting, looking from a cave into the sun. I'd like to rush in here with armloads of links and albs, saying Look here, and here, and here, and here. I have the bits and I am the king of the world. Discover! etc. It may well come to that one day. Not today.

But one link, if only so I can feel the least bit helpful. Because anyway, this is where it starts, baby...

totally fuzzy