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David Bowie - Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) CD (album) cover


David Bowie

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During almost two years, Bowie took a break (at least in terms of a true solo album). But he will be active in the theater business. In December 79, he will attend a representation of "The Elephant Man" in New York. The producer, Jack Hofsiss will ask David if he would like to act as the main character. And he accepted.

It was apparently a true tour de force. No make-up was used (on the contrary of the movie). It was true his miming skills that David had to suggest the monstrous deformity of the (elephant) man. The play will be a great success. Both commercially and artistically.

David will be unanimously acclaimed for his brilliant acting. Of course, his previous miming experiences were of great assistance. But apart from that, Bowie is very discreet. Almost anonymous. We are far from Ziggy's fame and glitters.

For this album, Fripp is back on the guitar and one can immediately feel his phenomenal influence on the opening track. The hard "It's No Game, Part 1". Partially sung by a female Japanese, it combines English lyrics as well. The finale is brilliantly Crimsonesque. The guitar making some jolly good and disjointed noises. So strong that David can only stop it by shouting: "Shut Up" at the end of this great opener.

And even if "Up The Hill Backwards" is somewhat lighter, it also ends up in a kind of Fripp frenzy. Distorted and raw guitar sounds. Still, I consider it as one of the two weakest song from this superb album. Because David is extremely performing here. Lyrically and musically.

The tile track is another brilliant song. IMHHO, it is fully dedicated to "The Elephant Man" but I couldn't find any confirmation of this. So, it's only my interpretation. The lyrics anyway don't mention this at all. The song is again on the hard side and Fripp does have a lot of pleasure, apparently. Throughout the album its cold and metallic guitar sound will definitely mark this album. A highlight.

Would you believe? Major Tom is back after having wandering into space for over eleven years! Ground control has finally got the contact. "Do you remember a guy that's been in such an early song, I heard a rumour from ground control Oh no, don't say it's true; they got a message from the action man".

In the meantime our dear old Major Tom has been through several experiences and is pretty much a bad guy. "You'd better not mess with Major Tom". A funny wink and a great video clip, Bowie himself wrote the script and at the end one can see his mother while the lyrics say: "My mama said to get things done, you'd better not to mess with Major Tom". It will be number one in the UK. Another highlight.

Side one ends up on "Fashion". My least favourite of the whole album. Too funky. Too "Young Americans" oriented.

B-side opens on the fantastic "Teenage Wildlife". So reminiscent of "Heroes". A catchy melody, great backing vocals, complex guitar of course and powerful lyrics. David being some sort of a godfather giving advices to a young man: "You'll take me aside, and say Well, David, what shall I do? They wait for me in the hallway I'll say Don't ask me, I don't know any hallways.

Seven minutes of pure happiness. Another highlight of course.

The next song "Scream Like A Baby" is not a new one. David had already written parts of it as soon as .1973 and will finalize the project now. Great vocal effects, fine synth. Do I need to talk about the guitar parts?

The next song is somewhat weaker and more straight forward. "Kingdom Comes" is the only song from the album not written by David. It was composed by Tom Verlaine. The leader of the great "Television" (whom I saw in 78 at the Brussels University. A great souvenir).

A very special guest is playing the guitar on the next song: Pete Townsend himself! The beat is again wild, the bass play very effective. It appears to be a song written to the attention of Zowie (David's son who had just celebrated his tenth birthday).

And we close as we opened. "It's No Game, Part 2". Much softer than part one, the lyrics are all in English this time; actually the English section of Part one (only the last phrase is new). The loop has been looped.

"Scary Monsters" is a fantastic rock album. IMHHO it is David's last masterpiece.

The remastered CD edition (1992) features several bonus tracks of which a stripped down version of "Space Oditty" without the great Wakeman keys. It might give an another angle to it, but it is not coming close of the fantastic original. The speeded up version of "Panic In Detroit" is also somewhat weird. As if David was in hurry. Again, the original sounds miles better.

The next one is an instrumental track. "Crystal Japan" had been recorded as a single in 1980 but only as a Japanese imported stuff. It was backed up with "Alabama Song". It should have closed the album but was pushed out by "It's No Game, Part two".

It is a wonderful and ambient song which reminds instantly the great atmosphere of "Low" ("Warszawa", "Subterraneans"). Since the fans had to pay lots of money to get this, David insisted to have it on this new CD version).

The last number is a strange piece of "music". Original composed by Bertold Brecht and was already covered by "The Doors" under the name of "Alabama Song" (on their debut album). It is frankly pretty much uninteresting.

I've said masterpiece already. Five stars.

What a great album! What a fabulous emotion while I discovered it! Thanks David.

Report this review (#174866)
Posted Sunday, June 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars At one point I would have told you that this was probably my all time favourite album. Things have changed. It now rests in my collection of CDs as a decent album, fukll of ambition, tainted by cheesiness, could have been a lot better. Inconsequentially I detest Bowie's clown-like image at this point. Like the album it is way over-the-top. There i9s a plethora of guitarists on this album, but perhaps the most prominent is Robert Fripp (I recognis that name from somewhere...). He adds his angular, odd and rythmics sounds to this flawed menagerie of music.

'It's No Game (part 1)' opens the album strongly, and epitomizes the ethic of this album. Overcrowded with ideas, some successful, soem less so. Fortunately on this opener everything works well, from the amazingly fast Asian female vocals, the satirical lyrics, the catchy hooks, and David's tortured screams at the end. 'Up the Hill Backwards' is not as good. It is a decent song with a catchy chorus, but not much to grab the listener. 'Scary Monster (and Super Creeps)' is a worthy title track. Dark, yet danceable, David puts on a mock cockney acent for the vocals. 'Ashes to Ashes' was a superhit, shooting to number 1 in the British charts. This is the sequel to 'Space Oddity'. Here Major Tom is revealed to be a drug addict. he is still stranded in space with a stash of drugs. The surreal lyrics fit brilliant with the uber-catchy music. 'Fashion' completes this trilogy of hit singles, and is probably the best of the three. Like on much of the album, Bowie's lyrics are scathingly satirical and cynical. The chorus is again extremely catchy. 'Teenage Wildlife', unfortunately, screams AOR. This song, despite some good parts, really drags. The lack of a proper chorus does not help. It is almost as if Bowie could not pull off a six minute plus song anymore, without becoming boring. A shame. 'Scream Like a Baby', however is brilliant. This could have sat comfortably on Heroes. The dark lyics probably reflect Bowie's tumultuous mental state at the time. Synthesizers rule here. 'Kingdom Come' is a cover of a song by post-punk singer Tom Verlaine. It does not sound good. This dip in quality sinks even lower for the totally uninteresting AOR song, 'Because You're Young'. Even a guest appearance by Pete Townsend cannot ressurect this sorry song. In fact, if it was to have one redeeming quality it would be the use of the made up word, psychedelicate, which is wonderful, don't you think? 'It's No Game (part2)', fortunately is an excellent closer, even better than part 1. Poignant lyrics rule here.

There is, I admit, a smattering or two of prog here. It is not overall a totally impressive album though.

It could easily be included in the Crossover Porg genre here. This album has very few average songs on it, most being either terrible or brilliant, in pretty even doses, so three stars is reasonable.

Report this review (#175847)
Posted Tuesday, July 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm not a piece of teenage wildliiiiiiifee!! Bowie's last real classic is an chaotic, paranoid (even compared to his other works) and cold album. It certanly deserves some more attension here, cause it definitive has progressiva elements, not only but greatly in thanks to Robert Fripps long and creepy guitar solos.

First out is It's No Game (Part 1), which must be one of the harshest and wierdest in Bowie's archive. Pounding drums, false vocals, screamy guitar and female vocals sung in japaneese... It's really an extreme song. 7/10

Up the Hill Backwards sounds like nothing else Bowie has released, even if its actually is Panic In Detroit backwards! Its sounds like somekind of clinical-alien-gospell, until it freaks out in a crazy guitarsolo at the end. 8/10

Then arrives the title track, Scary Monsters. This album really is one of a kind... This track is no exception. An accoustic guitar builds a a floor for Bowie's ghostly gasps, Fripp's all time running guitar and even a demonic choir at the end. Terrifying! 9/10

Ashes To Ashes is about the same astronaut as in space oddity. The song itself is completely different, more experimental, paranoid... Why do I even compare them? Less of the crazy guitar here, instead there are some deep, futuristic synth layers. Catchy song with fun lyrics. 8/10

Next up is Fashion, the most commercial song on the album and maybe the least outstanding. Its still not a very commercial song, especially not with fripps guitar creaking in the background. It's a rather funky song. 7/10 Teenage Wildlife is the song closest to pure prog here. A lot of guitars and solos and it flows with constantly changes and without the verse-chorus-verse-chorus order. It's hard to not fall in love with this dramatic song. A feeling of freedom that reminds me of heroes, but this is even better. 10/10

Scream Like A Baby is a depressed, and again a very paranoid track that seems to act about a man and his gun. For me this track sounds like some twisted amusement park-music, with great result. 8/10

Kingdom Come is the only song not composed by Bowie and it's also the weakest on the album. Not as interesting as the rest of the album and not a very variated track. 6/10

With Because You're Young we´re back to the twisted amusement park-rock again! More straightforward this time however, Bowie acts like somekind of fallen angel, talking to a younger person about the dark sides of love. Not very good to listen to after a break up or something like that. 8/10

It's No Game (Part 2) is the same as the first track on the album, but this time slower and not as crazy as before. The japanese is gone, the guitar is tamed and the singer a little bit calmer. That doesn't make the song less good than the first version, and it works surprisingly well with the same song all over again. 7/10

This album is very close to the five star rating, but I can't say it's necessary for any prog collection, so on this site it deserves a solid 4-star rating. If there wasn't a review just for prog-listeners, I would probably have given it 5 stars.

Report this review (#205625)
Posted Saturday, March 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Quite definitely the best Bowie record of all. Every track is a winner on this recording. He's helped out by Robert Fripp on guitar who stamps his personality all over this album. 'It's No Game pt1' is the first, hardest and most discordant song on the LP and Bowie sounds berserk on it!. Things calm down a bit with 'Up the Hill Backwards' but it's an odd little tune and a strange choice as a single. The title track is fantastic, particularly with the vocoded Dalek sounding vocals. We all know how great the two hit singles are so I'll skip them.

Side two opens with 'Teenage Wildlife' , a tune that sounds all over the place with seemingly random notes sprouting about everywhere but after a few listens becomes immensely enjoyable. 'Scream Like a Baby' sounds a bit 'Rocky Horror' to me but still a very unusual Bowie track. 'Kingdom Come' is dominated by Fripp's King Crimson like guitar loudness with Bowie hitting some screechingly high notes that he is now incapable of doing. 'Because You're Young' is probably the most 'Bowie' sounding track on the album - and that's no bad thing in my book. The outro is the lazy sounding version of 'It's No Game'. Who knows what on Earth the man is babbling on about? Nah, me neither.

Brilliant artwork with Bowie at his peak (he was 33 when this was released!). It's got just the right amount of experimentalism and it's raw and loud. The rest of his career will be forever judged on this 1980 Meisterwerk which set the benchmark for all further Bowie releases, which unfortunately he was never quite able to replicate. (Maybe with the exception of 'Outside' from '95) Not at all 'proggy' - but one of my all time favourite albums.

A great big 5 Star Award for this one!

Report this review (#215390)
Posted Wednesday, May 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars It seems to me this is the one Bowie album no self-respecting progger can do without. Not because the Thin White Duke hasn't made better albums, far from it (ZIGGY STARDUST, DIAMOND DOGS, STATION TO STATION and "HEROES" all are stronger artistic statements than the album under review) but because it contains quite a bit of Robert Fripp's best ever guitar playing! If I remember it well, Bowie had his songs recorded and he then asked Fripp to come to the studio and pour some truly UNHINGED electric solos all over them. Which is exactly what happened. As a consequence, the original A-side of SCARY MONSTERS contains one of the most riveting sequences of songs Bowie has ever committed to vinyl. Of course it helps that the tunes are strong. On the other hand, most of the lyrics seem rather obscure, but I remember when this album came out how relieved we all were that Bowie finally seemed to be making a stand against fascist tendencies.

SCARY MONSTERS' B-side is noticeably more bombastic and less convincing than the A-side, in spite of a brief guest appearance by Pete Townshend. Only "Teenage Wildlife" really convinces. Why is this side so much weaker? Well, you guessed it. The tunes sound less inspired, and there aren't any great Fripp Moments! I don't want to give the impression of being a Frippadorer (I really am not) but let's just give praise where praise is due.

Report this review (#262324)
Posted Sunday, January 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Bowie's gift to write exceptional pop & rock anthems had always been impressive but it rarely managed to deliver albums of a listenable consistency. The albums with Eno were much of a hit and miss for me, but the collaboration with Fripp on Scary Monsters gives creative fireworks. At least on the first side.

The first half of the album is so strong it would almost deserve 5 stars on its own. The first three tracks present art-rock similar to that on Heroes, but Fripp takes a much bigger portion of the cake and gives the songs an unexpected edge. Ashes to Ashes and Fashion are two of the finest mainstream songs ever crafted. Up there with the Police for me.

The second side is more something for Bowie die-hards and it makes me wonder how many people bothered to flip this album to that side back in the vinyl days. I sure didn't. Again we find Bowie assuming his most affected and pretentious pose in the hope of hiding the average song material. None of the songs are bad, but they are sure inferior to what preceded, having too few hooks on offer and each of them indulging poor choruses and badly aged glam-rock. Every experiment that worked so effortless on the first side comes off forced here.

I think I'll need to borrow the higher math logic from another member to reach a conclusion here.

***** star songs : Scary Monsters, Ashes to Ashes, Fashion

**** star songs: It's no Game, Up the Hill Backwards

*** star songs: Scream Like A Baby, Kingdom Come

** star songs: Teenage Wildlife, Because You're Young

That's like 3.6666 stars.

Report this review (#280939)
Posted Saturday, May 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I must admit David Bowie has a telent, a talent for penning some great pop/rock songs, this album prooves it that even in the 80's and indeed now David Bowie is an important icon in rock music in general. I feel this is a very underlooked album and really had some fantastic moments, not only that but it had some great guests to join Mr.Bowie including King Crimson's own Robert Fripp on a selection of songs, and Mr. Pete Townsend using his talent on BECAUSE YOUR YOUNG.

There are a lot of standout songs on this collection, some you may already know ASHES TO ASHES, FASION SCARY MONSTERS (AND SUPER CREEPS) but i think the three songs that are most underlooked are the opening and closing tracks ITS NO GAME (numbers one and two) two great pop songs with an arty flavour and TEENAGE WILDLIFE now this song is quite the epic track on the album again with quite an arty edge;

It's No Game (No. 1) - 9/10 Up the Hill Backwards - 8/10 Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) - 9/10 Ashes to Ashes - 10/10 Fashion - 10/10 Teenage Wildlife - 10/10 Scream Like a Baby - 7/10 Kingdom Come (Tom Verlaine) - 7/10 Because You're Young - 8/10 It's No Game (No. 2) - 9/10

My Conclusion? yet another great addition to any Bowie fans collection

Report this review (#283120)
Posted Saturday, May 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars What's Inside a Dalek?

You know there was a time when the Thin White Duke was considered a tangible threat to conventional mores from within the chattering front rooms of UK suburbia. To all intents and purposes, he practically had at his disposal, an entire weekly musical spreadsheet from which to propagate the burgeoning myth of the Bowie persona/s (it was called the New Musical Express and such pious fourth estate acolytes as Charles Shaar Murray and Roy Carr would extirpate entire forests in keeping up with the chameleon Joneses myriad incarnations). How often do you have to be told that an artist continually reinvents himself before you start to believe it? Millions of you did apparently.

My own dear father, while tapping an appreciative platform hush puppy to Diamond Dogs on Hogmanay circa 1974 was heard to remark:

- although the weirdo ginger poof gies me the dry boke, the laddie sure knows his craft -

Throughout a meticulously engineered career Bowie manipulated quite expertly such ambivalence where he managed to pass off a tried and trusted musical conservatism wedded to a keen eye and ear for the latent Zeitgeist and provocative elements of the counter culture. He demarcated risqué outrage to within the safer realms of appearance and lifestyle while producing music that when shorn of it's shiny surface novelty betrayed a deep held belief in the classic and time-worn tools of song-craft. Conventional wisdom has dictated that Bowie's achievements and innovation dwarf those of someone like Ray Davies but the latter's body of work compares very favourably in both scope and quality once we look beneath the heavily modded bonnet of David's souped up drag racer. That is not to say David lacked innovation or daring in his output, just that the emperor of the demi-monde swapped our new clothes for anorak and slippers during his down time.

For most proggers the hook on this album will probably be Robert Fripp, a long time associate of Bowie's and from whom producer Tony Visconti coaxes a series of startling contributions to this album that rank as high as any session work embarked on by the head Crim. Best to ignore the faux New Romantic artwork methinks, as by 1980 Bowie had long dispensed with the decadent Pierrot /fop card that his imitators and wannabes continue to flog to this day with ever decreasing returns. There are in places on Scary Monsters some thinly veiled swipes at his avowed but clumsy disciples Gary Numan, Bauhaus and practically anyone sufficiently gauche to fall from the 'rock star as alien' bandwagon.

It's No Game - existed as early as 1970 in demo form tentatively titled Tired of My Life and the jaded and world weary narrator is abetted in his disaffection by the shrill Japanese spoken delivery of Michi Hirota. He even has the temerity to tell our beloved but unheeding Fripp to Shut up! on the outro.(The nerve)

Up the Hill backwards - Has been interpreted as an ode to his divorce from Angela Bowie.(Who won custody of the eye makeup but not his Glass Spider stage outfits alas) Regardless, like most lyrical aspects of David's work he is at best inscrutable and at worst plain vanilla evasive with a dash of contemptuous garnish:

We're legally crippled It's the death of love It's got nothing to do with you If one can grasp it It's got nothing to do with you If one can grasp it

In mitigation, it's a beautifully constructed song where all the constituent parts carry exactly the right weight and displays a craftsman in complete command of his materials. Such a shame that an individual as perceptive and urbane as Mr B cannot get his expensively coiffured barnet round the fact that global stardom just might invite some unwelcome scrutiny into his private affairs. Discretion is clearly unilateral when you have served a ten year gagging order on your ex spouse. Those who plunge willingly into the goldfish bowl of celebrity cannot expect the imprisoning glass to be tinted in their favour surely?

Scary Monsters and Super Creeps - Here Bowie slyly acknowledges the influence of extant post-punk shenanigans with a deceptively simple and fast paced spiky rocker sung in that faintly irritating 'wide boy' cockney accent he has appropriated from time to time. David narrates a tale about a female's descent into madness which takes on an even more sinister atmosphere via Fripp's claustrophobically anguished guitar motif:

She asked for my love and I gave her a dangerous mind Now she's stupid in the street and she can't socialise

Ashes to Ashes - the mordant title serves as an unapologetic goodbye to the hedonistic and dissolute 70's and says hello to the erm...hedonistic and dissolute 80's

I've never done good things, I've never done bad things I never did anything out of the blue

The verse drum beat for this song has always intrigued me as if heard on it's own would strike most casual listeners as completely unnatural and suicidally un-groovy. To wit, the anticipated second snare 'thwack' in the bar appears to rush in 'too early' on the 6th eighth note. However when overlaid with a sumptuously funky synth bass, Alomar's languid but teasing guitar lead and some inspired guitar synth textures from Chuck Hammer, the whole conspires to paint an incredibly complex sound picture framing a simple yet hauntingly memorable song. At moments like these you catch a glimpse of the much heralded genius of Bowie at close quarters.

Fashion - It is testimony to the abilities of Robert Fripp that his guitar alone transforms this numbing and clomping euro synth atrocity into a thing of thrilling abrasive beauty. Once again Bowie jumps into bed with a genre he ridicules (disco) for a one night stand that leaves the spurned lover believing she to be the creature of his dreams. I once tried to work out what Robert was playing on this track but gave up after about 5 frustrated minutes - it's wantonly perverse, contrary to every musical convention ever proffered as a rule, juttingly angular, blackly chromatic and in places just plain wrong but the 'bespectacled chipmunk' somehow makes such scale, timing and chord choices work (Dunno...)

Teenage Wildlife - This has always struck me as a rather strained effort in penning an effortless classic by sheer force of will i.e. Heroes the sequel. It ain't bad but cribs somewhat self consciously from the former and despite some magnificent wailing guitar from Fripp on a huge exhilarating chorus is perhaps just a yummy dessert with grandiose delusions of being a main course.

Scream Like a Baby - Another song that may have gestated from an earlier seedling called I Am A Laser from circa 1973. A harrowing tale of political imprisonment sung quite imaginatively in the past tense from the perspective of a distant future.(Are those who ignore the future condemned to re-live it via reincarnation? BTW I'm only kidding so don't start a thread on PA y'all)

Kingdom Come - One of my favourite Tom Verlaine songs is here butchered with an appalling vocal and negligible sensitivity to the irony imbued in the original. A 'chain gang' song for conscripts decked out in Armani jail wear. The only real 'dry clean only' stain on the album.

Because You're Young - David ingratiates himself quite shamelessly with those for whom parentdom will 'never understand' the impotent rage of 'yoof' by flattering to deceive a demographic paying good money to hear that they are the only youth who have ever existed (into early middle age and beyond it seems). We might let Mr Verlaine deliver David his comeuppance here:

O foolish heart, crazy thing, you hear any old tune and you sing, you sing

Pete Townshend plays guitar on this (but I can't hear any trademark windmilling kerrangs from My Generation's ageing author)

It's No Game (Part 2) - a much calmer recapitulation of the opening track as if sung by a narrator whose life hasn't improved much in the interim, but is clearly better disposed to his unhappy and inevitable fate. Such repetition is not unwarranted as the strength of the musical ideas can certainly withstand further interpretation.

I've never trusted David Bowie. His huge and multifarious output always wins my admiration and respect but I honestly cannot name a single track by him that actually moves me emotionally in any shape or form. Without Ray Davies' charm and humility, John Lennon's acerbic and withering wit, Arthur Brown's strident humanism or Syd Barrett's deadpan whimsy, Bowie comes across as abundantly more talented than the preceding four but cripplingly lacking in any loveable vulnerability or endearing spontaneity. Given that he is consistently reticent to discuss with anyone what his songs are actually about we will continue to speculate futilely just what that soft kernel at the heart of his personality might actually resemble.(the squishy innards of a Dalek?)

It can't be an accident that my favourite albums are those widely loathed by Bowie cognoscenti over the years i.e this one, Outside and Heroes. Perhaps it's just the stubborn progger in me that fastens onto his forays outside the mainstream pop realm but to be fair, I have long held the belief that Bowie's songs are populated by characters that no-one (including their creator) has ever met outside of books and merely serve as 'mind candy' for an infinitely more preferable world than that endured by Bowie's legions of followers. He steadfastly refuses to reveal himself and I suspect that if he ever did so, we would fail to recognise him.

His is the 'method' school of music.

Report this review (#297587)
Posted Monday, September 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I don't quite love this album, but it has many things in common with albums that I do love, if that makes sense. This is often referred to as a "consolidation" or "encapsulation" album for Bowie, summarizing many of the aspects of his career to that point, but this seems like a stretch given that the only clear callbacks to previous albums are (a) the resurrection of the Major Tom character (as well what sounds like a mellotron, even though I know it's not) in "Ashes to Ashes" and (b) the way "Teenage Wildlife" is a fairly obvious rewrite of ""Heroes"." What stands out most about the album for me (and maybe this is kinda what people mean with the "encapsulation" angle, though I still don't buy it even with this justification) is that it shows Bowie once again striking an effective balance between music that's eccentric and challenging, on one hand, and music that's shiny and glossy and accessible to a wide audience, on the other. The last few albums (including Lodger) had definitely skewed the balance towards the former (not that that exactly bothered me), and the next few albums tried WAY TOO HARD to skew the balance towards the latter, but this album is a pretty nice meeting point of the two.

Whereas Low was roughly the "Bowie/Eno" album, and "Heroes" was roughly the "Bowie/Eno/Fripp" album, and Lodger was roughly the "Bowie/Eno/Belew" album, Scary Monsters is roughly the "Bowie/Fripp" album, and the combination is often extremely entertaining. Fripp is the undeniable star of a few of the tracks: the title track, for instance, would be a mildly interesting up-tempo rocker with distorted vocals in the chorus, but Fripp's alternation between soaring discordant lines and growling riffage is enough to make the track into a borderline classic. Even better is "Fashion," which would be a decent enough disco-ish commentary on pop culture (with a fantastic hook in the "We are the goon squad and we're coming to town, beep beep"), but Fripp's guitar, so unexpectedly harsh and incongruously ugly (in a good way), makes this into a definite Bowie classic. "It's No Game (Part 1)" makes for a great song on its own (the closing "It's No Game (Part 2)" is done in a relaxed, stripped-down manner and sounds very nice), both in the melody and in the over-the-top agonized screaming of the vocals (in between a Japanese woman reciting the lyrics in that language), but the effect wouldn't be quite the same without that nagging set of lines that prompts Bowie to scream "SHUT UP!!!!" repeatedly at the end before the song stops.

Fripp makes three other appearances on the album, the first in "Up the Hill Backwards," a decent song that alternates between a pleasant shuffle and a combination of the Bo Diddley riff played on acoustic and a bunch of Fripp's patented riffage on electric. The second Fripp appearance happens in "Teenage Wildlife" (the ""Heroes" rewrite), where Bowie gets unexpectedly personal sounding in what (I guess) is a kissoff to his days as a glam days and what came from his influence. The song is significantly overlong (especially, again, for SUCH a blatant remake of a classic from only a couple of years previous), and I don't get quite the emotional catharsis from it that's clearly intended, but there's definitely a lot of passion in it, and the guitar work from Fripp and whoever else is contributing lines is bright and vibrant and all sorts of terrific features. So yeah, I like it a lot. The third apperance happens in a cover of the solo Tom Verlaine song, "Kingdom Come," and Fripp's soaring line in the introduction and in some of the breaks is definitely the most interesting part (the rest of the song isn't especially notable).

The most famous track from the album, though, is the one that doesn't feature Robert Fripp but instead, as mentioned, brings back the beloved Major Tom. What fascinates me most isn't the infamous chorus ("Ashes to ashes/funk to funky/we all know Major Tom's a junkie/strung out in heaven's high/hitting an all-time low"), but the way the song is able to shift so effortlessly between a pretty ridiculous plinky synth/guitar/whatever line and those oh-so-majestic synth textures that sound straight out of "Space Oddity." And the last minute, with that great echo in Bowie's voice and more great synth textures that sound as timeless as anything coming out of 1980 could? Classic.

Anyway, there are two more tracks here, and they're not great, but they're okay. "Scream Like a Baby" was an updated version of an unreleased track Bowie had written years earlier (more fuel for the "encapsulation" description, I suppose), and while I don't find the verses very interesting, there's something intriguing in the rough layering of multiple Bowies on top of each other in the chorus. And finally, "Because You're Young," if nothing else, contains a solid rhythm guitar part from none other than Pete Townshend. It has a nice chorus too, I guess.

Basically, I feel like this is an album that a hardcore Bowie fan would especially adore, so if you think that might be you, this should probably be one of your very first purchases. For the rest of us, this is still a pretty remarkable album, and definitely the last great Bowie album for a good while.

Report this review (#300361)
Posted Friday, September 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
5 stars The '80s might not have be the best years in terms of Bowie's creativity but he definitely started the decade off on the right side of things with Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)! This is easily my favorite David Bowie album to date. The balance between Art Rock and commercially viable material is just flawless on pretty much every track here except possibly for Fashion. I also think that Robert Fripp's guitar is an important asset that can't be overlooked since it really brings out amazing new elements in Bowie's overall sound.

The album kicks off with the first part of the It's No Game duology and it's difficult to believe that we're actually listening to a David Bowie album. That is until we finally get the more subtile revisit of the track at the end of the album where it become apparent that Bowie was pretty much messing around the first time and this shock value is just priceless to me. Up The Hill Backwards reminds me of Frank Zappa music from around the same era, which I guess is good, but it's not really something that I would expect from Bowie. The album's title track is where the album finally reaches its biggest highlight. I guess that there is a punk vibe to the songs but Robert Fripp's guitar really makes this composition a spectacle that I really can't describe in words! This track has definitely managed to withstand the test of time for me and I don't hesitate calling it my favorite David Bowie composition!

Ashes To Ashes is another popular single that managed to captivate both the fans and critics. This is actually one of the few occasions where I can share their enthusiasm, something that can't be said about Fashion. It's not that it's a bad tune but it just doesn't really fit that well into the overall style that the album is going for. Teenage Wildlife returns the album onto much safer ground that partially reminds me of the title track from "Heroes", which seems to be what Bowie was going for here and Fripp's guitar definitely doesn't make it any less apparent.

After a few shaky tracks we finally reach the second biggest highlight - Scream Like A Baby! As I previously mentioned in my review of "Heroes", this is one of those tracks that has received undeservedly little attention from the audience. This song almost reaches an anthem-like level of intensity for me just due to its sheer raw power! After another likable but not essential cover of Kingdom Come, Because You're Young is where Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) transitions from being an excellent album to an essential such for me. I would have never guessed that it was Pete Townshend playing the guitar on this track since it sounds nothing like what I've heard from his contributions to the Who. It's an excellent performance nonetheless and shows once again that David Bowie was great at picking his guitarists.

Some critics have called Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) Bowie's last great album but I happen to disagree with that idea. Instead I consider it his best achievement which is a title that is hard to top, but that doesn't mean that wouldn't continue making great music even in the 21st century!

***** star songs: It's No Game (No. 1) (4:20) Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (5:13) Ashes To Ashes (4:25) Scream Like A Baby (3:36) Because You're Young (4:54) It's No Game (No. 2) (4:24)

**** star songs: Up The Hill Backwards (3:15) Fashion (4:49) Teenage Wildlife (6:56) Kingdom Come (3:46)

Report this review (#307460)
Posted Saturday, October 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars The last five-star Bowie album is an intriguing reflection on Bowie's transition from innovative outsider to fully-established member of the rock aristocracy, coupled with a rumination on the concerns of aging and seeing a new generation of artists take up the artistic themes and ideas he'd left behind (as explored on Teenage Wildlife). With a more cohesive and compelling lyrical theme than any album since Diamond Dogs (and perhaps his most erudite and thoughtful lyrics ever), Bowie musters a dream team of musicians to help him bring his songs to life.

Prog fans will rejoice at the regular guest appearances by Robert Fripp over the course of the album, and Pete Townshend also lends a hand, but for my money the absolute best song includes neither of them - the legendary Ashes to Ashes, with its otherworldly synthesiser backing and chanted lyrics, is both the culmination of all of Bowie's artistic endeavours since Space Oddity and an exorcism of them. The song - and the album surrounding it - probably represent Bowie's greatest artistic triumph.

Report this review (#564320)
Posted Tuesday, November 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars "My mother said to get things done you better not mess with Major Tom."

I like this album a lot and played it often during the 80s. The iconic front cover was an excellent statement of Bowie's power at the time. The thin white clown persona was essential to Bowie's new image and return to form and played a powerful image on the 'Ashes to Ashes' film clip. The fact that Bowie was cleverly tying in the image with the Major Tom character of the 70s was a master stroke. It was an ingenious throwback to the classic era and brought in new characters and a futuristic edge; as if Bowie was transported to a new age of synthesizers and space ships. The synthesizers came in the form of dynamic keyboard runs by Bowie himself. He is helped in the music department by the likes of prog hero Robert Fripp on guitar, and the great Pete Townshend on 'Because You're Young'.

The absolute best of Bowie is hidden on this album including 'Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)' with the monotone vocals and strange keyboards, and of course the brilliant 'Ashes to Ashes' and 'Fashion'. Not everything works on the album but it is always interesting and features excellent guitar from the hand of Fripp. It's No Game (No. 2) is one of Fripp's best guitar on this album but it is always creative and retro 80s never sounded better.

Report this review (#615503)
Posted Sunday, January 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Probably the last David Bowie album that I really enjoy, SCARY MONSTER (and SUPER CREEPS) is very much a product of it's time (1980). It is not as good as ZIGGY STARDUST, DIAMOND DOGS, or HEROES, but it is still an ewssential album in David Bowie's history. Guests include Robert Fripp, Pete Townsend, and you can't complain about that! Fripp plays on 6 of the 10 songs, even. I can't get "Ashes to Ashes" out of my head for hours after I play this album. Killer hook.(Major Tom's sequel story). No real weak numbers are on this album. Jsut not quite up to early Bowie classics.
Report this review (#749396)
Posted Saturday, May 5, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars After the Berlin trilogy, Brian Eno went back to his home on the moon. Bowie was now off drugs and needed some new musical partners. So he decided to give Robert Fripp a call, and the rest is history.

Ok, he didn't play on every song on the album, but I have to admit, his presence on this album is quite noticeable. And who better to take Bowie to new levels than the dark lord of King Crimson.

One of the best qualities about this album is it has a very other worldly quality. The sounds that are produced on this album are at times like something from another planet. This may be due to Eno's influence or it could have just been Bowie's interest in weird noises and such.

Musically the album keeps the art rock sounds from the Berlin era and adds more modern touches. Due to the death of Punk in the late 70's, the early 80' saw the birth of Post Punk, with the punk image and style being replaced with experimentation, goths and actual talent. Bowie being the godfather of the genre does take it under his wing with great care.

Lyrically the album shows Bowie being rather angry and confused. Having kicked the drugs, Bowie seems to attack the modern world and support individuality, which probably explains why he's dressed like a clown on the front cover.

The album opener and closer "It's No Game" has to be one of the most stand out moments on the album. The first part, with random Japanese dialogue and Robert Fripp's screaming guitar sound is one of the oddest but most effective album openers. The album closer takes the theme and gives it more of a soulful feel.

One of the most stand out tracks on the album, the title track "Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)" has a very almost comical approach. The vocal effects on the chorus are one of the most memorable moments on the song. Nothing sound better than David Bowie with a fake cockney accent and a darlek effect on his voice.

Even though I stated that "Life On Mars?" is one of my favourite songs of all time, there is another song that Bowie has made that does top that song or even compares with it. "Ashes To Ashes" is one of the most unique sounding songs I've ever heard. A brilliant composition with some incredibly odd arrangements and uses of instruments. The lyrics are also some of the most memorable you may ever hear.

The longest composition "Teenage Wildlife" is what you expect from Bowie when he composes a long track. A lot of music development and build ups, but its pulled off so well, with some very impressive vocals from Bowie.

While listening to "Scream Like A Baby" again, all I can think of is the current goings on in Russia (with gays and gay rights protesters getting killed, beaten up and tortured). In many ways the lyrics show similar situations, which kind of makes me think

In conclusion, pointing a gun at my head, this would have to be my favourite Bowie album. While I like and love the others, this one just stands out to me. On this album, Bowie was able to have the perfect mix of experimental and good songs. He has gotten close to this in the past few years, especially with his most recent album "The Next Day", but in my opinion, this will always be the best.


Report this review (#1007473)
Posted Sunday, July 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Other than his Columbia Record Club's "Selection of the Month", Changes, this was my first purchase of a David Bowie album. I just never liked his music. I thought his act, his persona, his shtick was cool, I just never felt any affinity to much less appreciation for his music. To my ears (and brain), It was just standard three chord rock with some lyrics that remained occluded from my comprehension by my disability (and, I must admit, lack of interest). Even with my love of "Space Oddity" I couldn't find myself even mildly interested in any of his albums--until Robert Fripp joined the band. Then I got interested.

The song "Ashes to Ashes" was all over the radio during my studies at the UEA in 1980, and I liked it. So, when I got home to America in the winter of 1981, I "took a chance" and picked it up. While it never won me over, it was at least interesting music. By this time I had become pretty much a devoté of M. Fripp, so therein lay my focus. I liked the transitional "growth" of Bowie's music (from the poppy stuff of the early 70s--though I did have a kind of perverse love for "Fame" despite the fact that it was played to death in my high school's lunchroom jukebox). In the end though, this is an album that I never go back to, can't name a single other song from (other than the hit), and, frankly, have little or no interest in ever doing so.

Report this review (#2755489)
Posted Friday, May 20, 2022 | Review Permalink

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