I was about ready to say 'Bowie got it right', but I don't know if that's quite accurate ... did he ever 'get it right'? Not even my favorite Bowie platters are close to being flawless, but - like this one - they're interesting enough to keep me saying 'hell yeah, that's a record!'.
On The Man Who Sold the World
, Bowie discovers Hard Rock, darkness, sexuality, and Mick Ronson, all of which were good enough for him to get some cash in the bank, via one of his most interesting albums to date.
The transformation in sound and approach between Space Oddity
and this album is absolute - the Bowie singing on this album is not a spacey hippie whatsoever - here, he's a doped-up Satanist metalhead sex fiend who talks about gay fucking and killing Gooks. He may be doing it in the spirit of irony, but with Bowie, who can tell? If there's ever been a fascist rock star, it's Roger Waters, but if there's ever been a fascist rock star who was photographed wearing a housedress for an album cover, it's Bowie.
And you know what? I dig the grooves of this album in all its sludgy, shades-of-grey-and-brown glory, and not just because the mood is cantankerous and the guitars loud (though I have to admit that has something to do with it). I also like that Bowie's stopped his idealism cold, leaving himself with only his close friends - nutballs, military murderers, misguided scientists, and of course, gay dudes who fuck a lot.
It's a veritable funhouse of weirdness a la Alice Cooper, though Bowie's ice-king weirdo delivery trumps Cooper's late-show hootin' and hollerin' in terms of not giving the ghost away too early. And all the hard-luck tales of everyday Joes are played over loose funky Hard Rock grooves that are the brainchild of Ronson, a sort of proto-punk guitar hero who combined the thick riffing of a Tony Iommi with the rootsiness of a Keith Richards, in a catchy / flashy flurry of hard-rockin' notes, while Bowie goes all Iggy Pop over the top. And the rhythm section just tries to stick with it (sometimes, they don't).
by Reviewer: Capt Bonanza
(blogging at Capn Marvel's Bonanza [Defunct]