oh, i have thoughts. so many thoughts. i’m going to listen again tonight, but after 3-4 plays, my stance is “it sounds a little too much like Hours to be excellent, but it IS better than Hours, so i will take it” my favorite is definitely Valentine’s Day, and the last song on the album is a bad last song, so hopefully the bonus songs will make for better endings.
So I’ve listened to the album maybe a half-dozen times now, mainly at the gym and while riding the ‘l’, plus some additional listening in the background while at home. I don’t have any grand thoughts about it yet, but I have formed impressions of all of the songs, in that I’m starting to realize which ones I like the most and which ones I like the least. So I can share that, in case it’s of any interest (?). The following is basically my saying how happy I am when each track comes on:
1 = I’m happy, have some desire to hear the song again when it ends.
.75 = I mostly like the song (I like it all right).
.5 = I’m so-so on it, like maybe half of it.
0 = I have an impulse to skip the track at some point.
1. “The Next Day” = .5
2. “Dirty Boys” = .5
3. “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” = 1
4. “Love Is Lost” = .75
5. “Where Are We Now?” = 1
6. “Valentine’s Day” = 1
7. “If You Can See Me” = .75
8. “I’d Rather Be High” = 0
9. “Boss of Me” = 0
10. “Dancing Out in Space” = 0
11. “How Does the Grass Grow?” = 1 (though maybe .75)
12. “(You Will) Set the World On Fire” = 0
13. “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die” = 0
14. “Heat” = .75
1. Obviously I like the first half much more than I do the second half.
2. I like the first half fine.
3. I think the best songs are “The Stars (Are Out Tonight,” “Where Are We Now?”, and “Valentine’s Day.”
4. That said, I don’t know how highly I’d rank them in Bowie’s total catalog.
5. But I like them.
The album as a whole gets a 6.75/14 from me, or just under a 50%. Which (sadly) feels right. (The first half gets a 79%, which also feels about right.) I feel I’m being a bit conservative/harsh here, but Bowie sets a high precedent—anytime I’m listening to The Next Day, I could be listening to Diamond Dogs or Lodger instead.
… I also reserve the right to change my mind about any of this!
as the newly appointed pope in the church of bowie, this sounds pretty damn accurate to me. while this new album may be riding solidly in the third tier of bowie albums, when you consider the fact that it’s been a decade since the ageless one released an album, third tier is pretty damn solid, esp. since the last album, Reality, wasn’t even third tier (although I will LITERALLY FIGHT TO THE DEATH to defend my stance that Heathen is ranked in the top 1.5, if not top series of albums).
Seems like the description of “0” should be that of ‘.25’, and 0 actually = Gotta change the station.
‘Zero’ is pretty strong hand-on-hot-stove rejection, where the impulse at some point to move away doesn’t sound that antipathetic. Mellencamp or many Zep standards for the billionth time, maybe the tune won’t be fatal (.25); Rush or (most) Journey, and the radio’s off.
Accepting this consideration might change your numbers… might not.
I guess I went with 0 because those songs aren’t doing anything positive for the album, IMO. If anything, they hurt my impression of it. So had I been the album’s producer (ha ha), I would have suggested cutting them from the final thing, maybe making them B-sides or bonus tracks.
I could be persuaded that I “quarter-like” some of those tracks I ranked 0, but that felt too anal to me. And perhaps quarter-liking a song is akin to 0-liking it, for me. Like, “I’d Rather Be High,” I could see giving that a .25, because it’s catchy if nothing else, but I think the catchiness of it also annoys me as it just repeats over and over again and my thumb inches toward the > button.
All hail Pope Shaun! Or will you be taking another name?
For me, there’s The 70s Stuff, which is brilliant and immortal, and then there’s Everything Else. (The 70s stuff includes the late 60s records, and ends, when I’m feeling charitable, with Let’s Dance—long decade!) Of the Everything Else I suppose I like the early 90s stuff the best—Buddha of Suburbia, Outside, Earthling. I also have a slight fondness for a smittance of the mid-80s stuff, namely Tonight (well, “Loving the Alien” and “Blue Jean”) and the Labyrinth soundtrack (for nostalgia’s sake).
The rest has never done much for me, alas. But in honor of your election, I’m willing to listen to Heathen again.
i want to update religion to make it more space-agey, so the title will now be Populon.
mid-eighties to late-nineties Bowie was not great. every album had at least a couple decent songs on them, but considering the stretch of perfect or near-perfect albums (Pin Ups definitely isn’t top tier, and Diamond Dogs isn’t as good as, say, Low), it all balances out in the end. it seems like he wanted to get his batting average around Lou Reed’s, whose own strategy of every other album being shit is putting him around a .600 as well.
I listened to Heathen again. You’re right. It’s much better than I remembered. Thanks! Also, I’m coming around some on “(You Will) Set the World On Fire.” The Next Day creeps above 50%!
What’s your beef with Diamond Dogs? I’ve noticed a few people picking on it now—Robert Christgau, for instance, ranks it the lowest of Bowie’s 70s studio albums (C+, which is actually below his rankings for Tin Machine and Black Tie White Noise). It’s actually one of my all-time favorite Bowie albums. The Berlin stuff is total genius—as is anything the man released in the 1970s—but my personal faves have always been Hunky Dory thru DD.
“So She” = .75
“Plan” = .75
“I’ll Take You There” = .75
I think they’re all pretty fine tracks, albeit incomplete sounding.
So if I take off the four tracks I don’t care for (“I’d Rather Be High,” “Boss of Me,” “Dancing Out in Space,” and “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die”), and replace them with the three bonus tracks, then the album jumps up to a 9.75/13, or 75%, for me. So that may be in fact just what I do.
The first thing I noticed on my single listen to the album yesterday was that Bowie sounds like nothing else. I always remember Dylan talking about how one has to have deep roots in music and always know where one is coming from. But Bowie seems to almost defy that rule. He creates music that seems to pop into existence out of thin air. He obliterates the roots.