Scary Monsters by David Bowie

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Scary Monsters by David Bowie
Scary Monsters by David Bowie

Album Released: 1980

Scary Monsters ::: Artwork

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1.It's No Game (Part 1)4:15
2.Up The Hill Backwards3:13
3.Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)5:10
4.Ashes To Ashes4:21
6.Teenage Wildlife6:53
7.Scream Like A Baby3:33
8.Kingdom Come3:42
9.Because You're Young4:57
10.It's No Game (Part 2)4:20


I said the last album had the most good songs on it since Ziggy - well, this one has some more. The only problem is that Bowie doesn't break any new ground here, he's almost *gasp!* conventional. That caveat aside, Scary Monsters is quite entertaining.

Basically rewriting the same cold electro-disco technopop snippets of metallic guitar groove he'd be doing since Station To Station, Bowie consolidates his strengths into an album of consistent quality. Remember where I said that he sang at his most affected on The Man Who Sold the World? Well, he sounds weirder here, especially on "It's No Game (Part 1)", which has some woman reciting Japanese, then repeated at the end of the album as "It's No Game (Part 2)".

"Up The Hill Backwards" takes a Peter Gabriel-ish stroll on a bed of acoustic pop. "Teenage Wildlife" is a dramatic, near 7-minute ballad that actually works for once. The two singles are the highlights though: "Fashion" puns on fascism and rips off "Fame" to good effect, in a much better song; and "Ashes to Ashes" continues the saga of Major Tom, and while - like most sequels - it's not as good as the first, it more than holds its own against "Space Oddity". I suppose if you want to hear "Kingdom Come" you need Tom Verlaine's version.

This isn't one of Bowie's more innovative or groundbreaking albums, just a good solid piece of entertainment. The bonus tracks on the reissue are expendable, consisting of so-what 1979 remakes of "Space Oddity" and "Panic in Detroit", a Low-like ambient mood piece "Crystal Japan" (1979 Japanese A-side, cute), and an atrocious take an Kurt Veill's "Alabama Song" (stay away from other people's songs, David).

Oh, if only Bowie had retired after this ...

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by Reviewer: Creative Noise (blogging at Creative Noise)

Bowie enters the 1980's with a strong album that moves both forwards and backwards at the same time.

Another new image(s) from Bowie graced the album sleeve, this time as a classic New Romantic character. Indeed, Scary Monsters was the last Bowie album in which he donned/became a character, before his work became more honest/soul-less (delete as appropriate).

Scary Monsters is of course the album containing two of the last truly classic Bowie singles, "Ashes to Ashes" revisiting Major Tom, and "Fashion", that almost sums up the entire 1980's before they'd barely begun. The clever lyrical themes and self-referential nods made during "Ashes to Ashes" provide the album with its heart, and Robert Fripp's fearsome guitar onslaughts lend the record a manic urgent feel. It's such a perfect song, the very first line setting us up with do you remember a guy that's been in such an early song, then with another line referring to Major Tom/Bowie in time and again I tell myself I'll stay clean tonight. A reference that arrives shortly afterwards is Bowie telling us I never done good things, I never done bad things, I never did anything out of the blue ... a self-deprecating line actually, and rather untrue.

"Fashion" is catchy, and enriched no end by Mr. Fripp on guitar, which cuts through the middle of the track beautifully. Elsewhere, "It's No Game" (which bookends the album) is rather ponderous; "Up the Hill Backwards" I can dig everytime I hear it, being a catchy piece ending with guitar lines that fade into the title track, hung around the immense spiralling and scary guitar antics of Fripp. "Teenage Wildlife" is much softer in feel, with a great Bowie vocal.

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by Reviewer: Adrian Denning (blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews)

I guarantee you've never heard anything like Scary Monsters (well, it's tame compared to Pere Ubu of course, so I guess it depends what you've been exposed to!).

The album can be classified as New Wave pop, but it's so seedy, drugged-up, and insane that it might have you gasping for air. But this being Bowie, he makes everything accessible to casual listeners, with many of these songs on the radio at the time - many people who grew up in the early 1980's know “Ashes to Ashes” by heart.

The album opens with “It's No Game (Part 1)”, featuring one of Bowie's greatest vocal performances to date, with the most terrifying paranoid scream-singing he could muster. That's put to a heavy beat, a drunken disco bass, and a detached and seedy electric guitar that seems to be striking a balance between grooving and making cat screeches. That might sound positively awful, but I swear it sounds awesome. The guitar is played by former King Crimson member Robert Fripp - he's so good he deserves an Academy Award for best supporting actor.

Fripp pretty much stole the show on “Fashion”, his desperate attention-starved guitar is the only thing that gives the song personality amidst a cold disco synthesizer and Bowie's intentionally emotionless singing. The vocals and slick groove may take care of the gloss and polish on the outside of the fashion world, but Fripp shows us what everyone's really thinking. I didn't care a whole lot about “Fashion” once, but now I think it's the coolest thing around - it's exactly what I have in mind when I think of fashion type thingies. Which isn't too often, but it happens.

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by Reviewer: Don Ignacio (blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews)

The last album in Bowie's magical 70's streak - although Scary Monsters doesn't break any new ground - it's a good summation of his late-70's ouevre, more commercial and accessible than anything he'd released in a long time.

With Eno no longer involved, there's less sonic experimentation than before, and so the album's much more song-oriented. Despite that, it still fits into the vein of Bowie's previous few releases, with the rhythm section of Alomar, Murray, and Davis still intact, and Robert Fripp and Roy Bittan returning to the fold.

It's hard to describe the sound - like a less-expansive version of the last few records, but with tighter songwriting and structure. In fact, the first side of Scary Monsters might be the best half-LP of Bowie's career, with three terrific singles one after the other, and if the second side suffers by comparison, it's still solid enough nonetheless.

The competition for best song is a close race between the "Space Oddity" sequel "Ashes to Ashes", the "Fame" sequel "Fashion", and the Fripp-dominated title track, while the bouncy piano vamp of "Up the Hill Backwards" is one of Bowie's best album cuts. And the opening "It's No Game (Part 1)" has enthralling Japanese backing vocals and a notably histrionic Bowie vocal performance.

Side Two may be less dynamic, but it still features one of Bowie's best covers, a take on Tom Verlaine's "Kingdom Come", plus a guest appearance by Pete Townshend on "When You're Young". The only notable flaw is the overlong "Teenage Wildlife".

For anyone who's heard the preceding records there's little revolutionary about Scary Monsters, and it's not the major statement epochal records like Low were, but it's still extremely well done and approachable, and a fine culmination to Bowie's late-70's experimental years.

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by Reviewer: Fyfeopedia (blogging at Fyfeopedia [Defunct])