I would not describe Bowie''s presence as either "absent" or "alarmingly in your face" as the editorial review does. Having composed, or co-written, each of the 11 tracks and singing on at least 7, David Bowie is hardly absent. The sheer beauty of this record belies any...
I would not describe Bowie''s presence as either "absent" or "alarmingly in your face" as the editorial review does. Having composed, or co-written, each of the 11 tracks and singing on at least 7, David Bowie is hardly absent. The sheer beauty of this record belies any alarm, even when Bowie "post-punks" it out on the short tracks of the first half, exposing himself more than any listener, and hence, inoffensive yet stunning. There is a haunting beauty and yet a bleakness to the tone of this record, coupled with a deep and gorgeous humanity within a foreboding futuristic urban-scape, wracked with anxiety, decay and hope. Post modern, indeed, LOW is the first commercially viable Post Modern statement (if there is such a thing.)
Interestingly, the album opens with a textured instrumental "Speed Of Life" which emphasizes the album''s focus on music, and presumably not words. "Speed Of Life" also sounds the sense of an epilogue. The after-story is fascinating, starting with the violent so-called "post-punk" less-than-two-minute "Breaking Glass" revealing a strutting Bowie who chooses to place such sensibilities in the mainstream. I thought the lyric went "Don''t look at the carpet; I "THREW" something awful on it. . ." However, it goes "Don''t look at the carpet; I "DREW" something awful on it...!" The punk throws. The artist draws. LOW is Bowie discovering his artist, punk influenced certainly, but much more pop contemporary, and fascinated by technology and production. Bowie was as "cutting edge" as his artist has yet been.
Sound is paramount here; perhaps more so than song writing, but fortunately we have equal measures of both. We quickly learn here is merely an insightful economy of words, presumably born of the cut-up technique. Note the "new" sound from video games like Space Invaders on "What In The World" a sound no one would dare include on a record today, or even by the end of 1977, as it quickly became hackneyed. Here, it remains a relic revealing a remarkable innovation, not quite forgotten 30 years later and appreciated all the more. "Sound and Vision" flopped on the charts, but nonetheless captured the essence of that era, a little bit of the old 70s homage doo-wop, a danceable beat, and a great rock tune. Lyrically it describes the state Bowie must have been in ("blue, blue . . . pale blinds drawn all day, wondering what to say . . . blue, blue") looking for a new direction, "...waiting for the gift of sound and vision." "Sound and Vision" is so deconstructed it''s almost produced backwards, brilliant. "Always Crashing in the Same Car" includes savvy vocalizing by Bowie round a tune that is barely sung, revealing the poet in the pauper. "Be My Wife" is a nostalgic return to the pauper''s life, and perhaps the strongest song on the album. Its directness is punk in attitude, yet really a catchy roadhouse piano tune, and a surprisingly perfect fit here.
"A New Career In A New Town" is contextual, subverting the tone of the album away from the new direction (read "new wave") pop of the first half to internal monologue, most accurately termed "ambient," of the second. This track is commuting on a cold morning to a new job, the first day of school, past error and regret, resigned but introspective and sensitive. Notice the harmonica, Bowie brings an earthiness into this whole album with direct piano tunes, or guitar liquors, or his own strong harmonica, such as here, mixed with ambient electronica. This track closes side one of the short, unexpected rockers, all echoing the same tone, a mixture of completely modern and textbook.
The gentle, determined, and insightful "Art Decade" may be the most sophisticated of all of the second half, comprised of four tracks: the elegant "Warszawa" the nearly unbearable and haunting "Weeping Wall," and, finally, the inevitable and fitting funeral of our civilization and the dialogue between the modern world and the infinite, "Subterraneans." Our world is revealed a world subverted, and I suspect in 1977, and today, deluded. Bowie was an artist fully realizing himself, who saw how the world to come, here now, more and more evident, would strip away any artifice, plunder the personality, and hollow out humanity `til there was nothing left but our beautiful artifacts.