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David Bowie - The Buddha of Suburbia CD (album) cover

THE BUDDHA OF SUBURBIA

David Bowie

 

Prog Related

3.42 | 38 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Now that's more like it. While Bowie was working on BTWN in an attempt to return to mainstream stardom, he was also working on the soundtrack to a BBC miniseries. This album is not actually the soundtrack to that miniseries, but is instead a reworking of many of the ideas that went into that soundtrack. Interestingly, Bowie once said this album was his favorite of all that he'd done, and given that this statement was made ten years after the release of the album, and the album was out of print at the time, I see no reason to doubt Bowie's sincerity in this. I wouldn't quite go that far, but it's a remarkably enjoyable album, and it boggles my mind that people reacted favorably to BTWN but mostly ignored this.

The most unusual aspect of the album is the slight return of Bowie's artsy-fartsy side, though the tracks in this vein aren't terrific. "Sex and the Church" sounded ok to me the first couple of times, but the combination of the monotonous underpinning, the repetitive encoded vocals and the uninteresting embellishments was enough to make me drop the grade from a low **** to a high ***. "South Horizon" is an odd attempt at what I can only describe as jazz-ambient, and "The Mysteries" goes full-blown in the direction of ambient. I'm a lot more tolerant towards ambient than a lot of people are (I've heard me a whole lot of Brian Eno ambient albums in my life, and liked more than my share), and these are ok examples of it, but they're not fantastic, and these two tracks last almost a combined 13 minutes. I'm fine hearing them individually once in a while, but it might have been a good idea to split them up better. There's another one of these instrumentals near the end ("Ian Fish, UK Heir"), and it kinda sounds like a Passion outtake (albeit with acoustic guitar), which means I don't mind it, but it's from the half of Passion where my mind starts to drift off a bit.

Ah well, the good news is that the other tracks make for the most solid collection of songs found on a Bowie solo album since, I dunno, Scary Monsters. The album is bookended by two versions of the title track (the latter with a barely noticable Lenny Kravitz on guitar), and it's just a marvelous pop ballad. This is what I love in pop music; a solid melody, graced with an arrangement that's not too soft/loud/hip/stodgy, and with a genuine, unforced build in emotional intensity into rousing climaxes. "Bleed Like a Craze, Dad" is early 90's disco-rock (!!) at its best, with a killer bassline, and Bowie's vocals have power and atmosphere to spare. "Strangers When We Meet" goes for the ""Heroes""/"Teenage Wildlife" vibe of years ago, and it manages to tap into that vibe well without sounding like a clone of either track. And then there's my favorite, "Dead Against It," which will almost certainly make a list of my ten favorite Bowie songs from now on. The onslaught of speedy synth layers works to make an instrumental melody that's just beautiful, and Bowie comes up with an almost perfect vocal melody to layer on top of it.

The album rounds out with "Untitled No. 1," which probably could have fit in on BTWN without too much difficulty, but it would have been a highlight there, so I'm not going to complain. Overall, then, the best half of this is a MUST GET for any serious Bowie fan. Besides, the album finally went back into print in 2007, and who knows, it might get pulled again someday.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |

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