Posts Tagged ‘David Bowie’

Quick Hit or Miss – David Bowie, Blackstar

February 29, 2016

Blackstar_(Front_Cover)I mentioned in my short post after his death that I would make sure to listen to his last album and post about my thoughts.  I’ve gone through the entire album a handful of times and what I’m most struck by is how “unrock” it is.  There’s a good bit of jazz elements, especially prominent placement of saxophone on the first three songs.  I learned researching this album that sax was the first instrument Bowie learned to play; I have to think this was a deliberate choice by Bowie to lean so heavily on that instrument in his final album.  The title track, which leads off the album, is a three part suite that has a good dose of that sax and singing that verges on Gregorian chanting at times.  The first and third parts of the song have a glitchy, post-OK Computer Radiohead vibe.

The sax stays in the fore in both the second and third songs.  Lazarus, the third track, is the best song on the album.  It’s got a great atmosphere with that sax and guitar stabs punctuating his pointed lyrics that definitely seem to be rooted in the knowledge of his impending death.  The fourth track, Sue, has a little drum n bass breakdown at the beginning and morphs into an uptempo and instrumental freak out at the end.  The energy slows down a bit on the next track, which to me has a dub sound.  Dollar Days is the track with the most prominent guitar and because of that it has a heavier sound than a lot of the other tracks.

It’s a testament to his innovative spirit that Bowie continued to stretch and look for new inspirations even at this point in his career, much less his life.  He could have easily put out a guitar-driven album that rehashed some of his “classic” works.  I would definitely put this in the Hit category; Lazarus is a bona fide entry into his best songs canon and the album as a whole has new things to discover on repeat listens.

Here’s the video for Lazarus:

RIP David Bowie

January 11, 2016

The passing of David Bowie has been all over the news today.  Not just music sites, but major media outlets, which is a testament to the global star that he was.  You can find plenty of good summaries today of his varied and multi-faceted career in music (both as a musician and producer), film and fashion.  I’ll just add a couple of thoughts I’ve had today.

His death today hasn’t hit me in quite the same way that Adam Yauch’s did because I haven’t spent as much time with Bowie’s music and so there’s not all the personal memories I have associated with his music.  Part of what I’ve felt today is regret for not having done so, which I know is a little bit weird given his music is and will still be available.  I don’t really know why I never did; growing up there was never a song of his I heard on the radio that I didn’t like and I still remember young me enjoying my cassette of Let’s Dance.  A few other of his albums have made their way into my library over the years; I think I just have taken for granted how good he was.  Probably for similar reasons, I never got to see him play live which is another regret.

I’ve also been feeling admiration for the man.  The fact that Bowie didn’t allow his illness to stop him from recording another album, Backstar, which was just released, as well as an off-Broadway musical. With over 20 albums to his credit and his illness, he certainly could have decided that he was done making music.  But, I have a feeling that thought never seriously crossed his mind.  I certainly plan to listen to Blackstar soon, which will now be listened to in a new context.

I’ve been enjoying seeing everyone listing their favorite songs and the breadth of the favorites is a microcosm of the variety of musical styles he dabbled in over the years.  My favorite song is from 1971’s Hunky Dory, Queen Bitch.  I wrote briefly about it five year ago here.  Often cited as a tribute to the Velvet Underground, I think he made a song that out-Velveted Lou Reed.  The guitar riff is an all-timer that still gives me chills and I love the conversational way Bowie sings this song (a nod to Lou Reed’s style for sure).  The ability to take a song that on its face seems so simple and generate such a powerful energy with it is an amazing thing.  While his body is gone, that energy will live on.

One Good Thing From The Life Aquatic

April 11, 2010

Queen Bitch – David Bowie from Hunky Dory

Luckily, Wes Anderson has good taste in music.  The Seu Jorge covers of David Bowie songs were the best part about his 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.  By sticking this one out to the end, the film introduced me to this great precursor to glam rock, Queen Bitch.  Other than what I’d hear on the radio or ChangesBowie and a cassette of Let’s Dance (not sure what prompted that purchase as a youth), Bowie really wasn’t on my radar.

Jorge’s cover of this song in the movie appeared in the end credits, and while it was sung in Portuguese, the guitar hook was enough to make me immediately seek out the original.  I was not dissapointed.  Mick Ronson’s guitar is great; Bowie does a great Lou Reed impression here with both his lyrics and vocal style.  The song easily could pass as a Velvet Underground song, if the VU had come after T Rex and Queen and been influenced by their work.  This song seems to be a precursor to some of Bowie’s more famous songs from Ziggy Stardust that would make Bowie a founding father of the glam rock movement.

The song bounces along, it always brings an extra spring to my step.  I’m surprised it has not become one of the more popular in his canon.  Maybe the unfortunate name of the song has something to do with that.  You can find the song here.