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David Bowie - Low CD (album) cover


David Bowie


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4.09 | 442 ratings

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4 stars "Rock is going down the drain; even Bowie has turned into a machine" was a common complaint when this album came out. Many old-fashioned admirers of Bowie's glam rock period just didn't "get" LOW. They mistook Bowie's depressed, low-key vocals for a lack of passion. They refused to see that instrumentals such as "Warszawa" and "Subterraneans" reflected a state of mind, just as much as "Rock'n'Roll Suicide" or "The Bewlay Brothers" had done. More than three decades after LOW was released, who would now describe the playing of Carlos Alomar, Dennis Davis, Charles Murray, Brian Eno and Bowie himself (to name the most obvious participants) as lacking in wit or passion? You might as well accuse the Spiders from Mars of sounding like a machine; after all, when the Spiders went on tour, they churned out well-oiled rock night after night!

No, LOW is the first album which fully managed to show how Bowie absorbed and reflected the influence of Krautrock and Enoesque avant-garde. You will hear echos of bands like Can and Neu, but thanks to Tony Visconti's hyper-clean production, LOW ended up sounding less messy and much glossier than the best products from Connie Plank's German studios. Although LOW's most inspired tunes are (in my personal view) somewhat less involving than the best material on STATION TO STATION, "HEROES" or SCARY MONSTERS, there's not a single track which lacks interest. Songs like "Be my Wife" and "Always Crashing in the Same Car" may initially seem underwhelming, but they grow on you. "Speed of Life" and "Sound and Vision" are part of the soundtrack of many people's lives without them even being aware of it. And LOW's B-side was beautiful enough to encourage Philip Glass to write a symphony.

LOW's influence on late 1970s and early 1980s pop culture is well-known. Nick Lowe, Joy Division and The Simple Minds were all inspired by the album, while Gary Numan made a career out of copying its idiom. Less familiar is the amazing connection that exists between LOW and Caravan's BETTER BY FAR. Check out my review of the latter if you'd like to know more.

fuxi | 4/5 |


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