This record sounds exactly as you'd expect a 1980's Bowie album to sound like, only minus the hits. Replace the three worst songs here with three hits of the calibre of those that graced Lets Dance
for example, and this would be a completely different album.
As it is, Bowie sounds divorced from the making of his own record, something that was becoming increasingly usual for him during the 1980's. The production is standard glossy 80's, complete with booming drums and sterile although reasonably impressive rock guitar solos.
The sound of the record in general is clearly based on Lets Dance
, in an attempt to maintain the appeal Bowie had in the US at the time. Still, whereas Lets Dance
sounded genuinely new, Never Let Me Down
sounds like Bowie treading water. Vocally he does fine, and if anybody cared to analyze the musical backing, it seems proficient enough.
Whilst the sound of this album is fairly cluttered, it does pack a reasonably decent sonic punch. But the songs themselves are deeply mediocre and the arrangements unimaginative ... you know, 1980's disco. If you ever found yourself dancing to a song from Never Let Me Down
, it would likely have taken you a good while to even realise you were dancing to David Bowie. That's how anonymous the vast majority of this record is. It's something you can listen to and enjoy a bit if you're in a forgiving mood, but otherwise, you'd likely switch it off halfway and put on Diamond Dogs
or Scary Monsters
or something instead.
"Glass Spider" - for all its ambitious ideas - is let down by its execution, consistsing of 1980's beats with wailing rock guitar solos punctuating them. No actual musical melody, or at least not a very interesting one. The bass plays a repeating melodic refrain, Bowie sounds semi-involved, but struggling to make anything more of what's given him by the musicians and production team. The title track has nice harmonica and a good Bowie vocal melody, although again, it has an unmemorable backing track.
by Reviewer: Adrian Denning
(blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews