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David Bowie - Black Tie White Noise CD (album) cover


David Bowie


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3.08 | 129 ratings

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2 stars Well phooey. After all the talk about not wanting to make the Let's Dance clone that his record company wanted (and getting thrown off the EMI label because of it) and after all the effort to pursue an effective and intriguing brand of heavy guitar pop rock, it almost makes sense, in a perverted way, that his first solo album out of Tin Machine (after he had said he wouldn't make solo albums anymore!) would be something ridiculous like this. I'm probably not the best person to try and review this kind of music; I have pretty much no interest in the type of dance-club pop (crossed with significant amounts of smooth jazz stylings) that dominates this album, and I don't have much of a sense of what's supposed to differentiate the good from the bad in that area. What I do know is that, if this weren't made by David Bowie, I would never have come close to giving this any kind of significant listen, and it's definitely not an album I enjoy on the whole. Niles Rodgers is back (again, why would Bowie go from defiantly claiming he didn't want to make a Let's Dance sequel to making a second album with the producer of Let's Dance? What a strange mind), and that may give this album credibility in some circles, but if I never hear the dancefloor-oriented "Pallas Athena," the dip pop of "Miracle Goodnight," the elevator muzak (who ever decided generic techno rhythms and jazz trumpet were a good combination?) of "Looking for Lester" or the pure schlock of Bowie's cover of "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday," it will be too soon.

While I don't like the other tracks on the whole, though, I'd have to say that like some of them in part. The album is bookended by "The Wedding" and "The Wedding Song," a celebration of Bowie's then-recent nuptials with the model Iman, and there's enough emotional intrigue in them for me to enjoy them without too much embarrassment. "The Wedding" could have been a muzak disaster like "Looking for Lester," but somehow the cross between the standard dance beats and Bowie's rough saxophone playing (a more accomplished sax player might have ruined this, honestly) is enough to elevate it into something I genuinely enjoy. "The Wedding Song" is basically the same track but with vocals, and as before I kinda sorta enjoy it, as Bowie's vocals give the banal lyrics a good chunk of emotional heft that makes me feel a little better as the album ends (at least, before the bonus tracks come on). Again, I don't love it, but I don't hate it either; bear in mind, though, that I liked "Shining Star (Making My Love)," so I might not be trustworthy.

Elsewhere, I'd have to say that the cover of Cream's "I Feel Free," as ridiculous as it sounds with all of the glorious heavy 60's guitar sound stripped away, still manages to have its delightful melody largely in tact, despite the best efforts to cover it in ridiculous production that sounded dated the instant the album was released. The cover of "Don't Let Me Down & Down," at the least, could have theoretically been a halfway decent Prince ballad, so that has to count for something. And, ehn, well, I kinda like all the wah-wah guitar textures and the way trumpet is used in the title track (a collaboration with Al B Sure! - no, really, the exclamation mark is part of his name, that wasn't excitement), which I'd be fine hearing every couple of years.

The rest is easily forgettable, though the two bonus tracks are somewhat of note: they're a remix of "Jump They Say" (which didn't grab me at all in the album but has an actually perceptible funk groove here) and a fun (albeit overlong by at least a minute) up-tempo number called "Lucy Can't Dance." They're fun! Overall, though, this album has an awful lot of negatives going against it, and when I have to struggle for compliments in the parts that I don't instinctually hate, a bad grade is inevitable. There's more good material here than on the worst 80's albums, though.

tarkus1980 | 2/5 |


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