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David Bowie - 1. Outside CD (album) cover


David Bowie


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3.62 | 156 ratings

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2 stars Bowie and Eno get back together and fiddle about with Nine Inch Nails' cast-offs. On paper, the idea of 1. Outside - and the two proposed sequels that never appeared, 2. Contamination and 3. Afrikaan - sounds amazing. A trilogy, just like the Berlin albums, only this time they're linked narrative concept albums. Not only that, but a murder mystery too! And not just a murder mystery, but a post-modern post-cyberpunk New Weird tale about a detective tracking down a serial killer murdering people in the name of art in a world where such brutality has become so cliche there are entire police departments devoted to investigating such crimes! And Bowie uses different voices for all the characters! And it's all improvised in the studio!

Well, yeah, there's the problem. Bowie and Eno had an ambitious plan for these albums, but didn't really back it up with sufficient compositional planning; instead, the music here is cobbled together from hours and hours of improv sessions. This attempt to create developed songs from recontextualised improvisations isn't unprecedented in Eno's own work - and indeed Frank Zappa did it a lot with his "xenochrony" technique - but in this case the results just aren't very satisfying. The concept is so poorly defined and developed as to be totally incoherent, whilst Bowie's range of different voices for the characters soon degenerates into unintended self-parody.

On top of that, the attempt to latch onto a modern industrial rock sound feels half-hearted and doesn't really measure up to the greats of the genre such as Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. This is most clearly illustrated by the fact that the best song on here, I'm Deranged, works much better in the context of NIN main man Trent Reznor's soundtrack selection for the David Lynch movie Lost Highway, in which judicious editing transforms it into a powerful bookending piece for an album which manages to juggle genuine-article industrial rock like NIN, Rammstein and Marilyn Manson with classic rock stalwarts like Bowie and Lou Reed. And there's no getting around the fact that 1 good song out of 19 (13 if you don't count the ones designated as "segues" - a euphemism here for "filler") - particularly when that 1 song is improved when you let Trent Reznor edit it - just isn't a very good batting average.

Warthur | 2/5 |


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