Thursday, January 12, 2012

Best of Bowie: 45 - 41

45. "I'm Deranged" (Outisde/Lost Highway Soundtrack - 1995) The 90's were sort of the return of the Thin White Duke. After his highly successful Let's Dance album, Bowie had faded fast in the 80's with a series of sub-par records. It happened to many of the best of the 70's artists (see Neil Young.) Triumphantly returning with Brian Eno producing and co-writing, Outside is an intense, industrial record. "I'm Deranged" is a frantic barrage of drum machines, paranoid bass drones and strings that come in and out. It's a true-blue Eno/Bowie collaboration mixing the best of what the duo can do. It's usage as the opening for Lost Highway is sheer perfection. David Lynch's crazy dialectic of a movie is perfect for Bowie's constant struggle with the duality of man. I can still see Bill Pullman/Balthazar Getty running from the past to the kinetic energy of this song.

44. "Breaking Glass" (Low - 1977) After his stint living in the United States, one filled with cocaine addiction and massive paranoia, Bowie and friend Iggy Pop moved to Berlin to start a new life. Thus began the "Berlin Trilogy" of Low, "Heroes" and Lodger. "Breaking Glass," a short but tasty bit of pop music goodness, is very much the perfect tid-bit of what half of Low was all about. Passing snippets of extremely catchy yet dark pop songs. Recounting a Bowie legend of how he was obsessed with Alasteir Crowley (a constant, recurring figure in Bowie's lyrics and vision) and his ritualistic strangeness while holed up in his L.A. home. It's a creepy, unsettling lyric coupled with a catchy, groove driven by the bass of George Murray and the heavily treated drums of Dennis Davis. Both dudes receive a writing credit, probably due to the very improvisational recording process Bowie undertook during this era. It's kind of a shame that the song only lasts but 2 minutes as it's funky groove could go on and on and not become boring.

43. "Word On A Wing" (Station to Station - 1976) Speaking of Bowie's crazed stint as a U.S. resident, "Word On A Wing" is Bowie's cry for help as he deteriorated from massive stress, personal anguish, cocaine, cocaine and more cocaine as well as a fear that Jimmy Page was out to kill him. A prayer of sorts, or a cry for help, "Word On A Wing" is a powerful song all around. Driven by piano and a lonely, but distant guitar part, this is purely a feat of Bowie's vocal performance. Multi-tracked backing vox lift this into the realm of neo-gospel while Bowie's almost tearful and brutally honest lead knocks it out of the park. This song is the perfect compass point to where Bowie was but where he was going. The lofty, gospel feel is much like some of the tracks on Young Americans, but it's darker lyrical quality was a point to the Berlin era. A beautiful song no matter how you look at it.

42. "Diamond Dogs" (Diamond Dogs - 1974) I'll admit this right away, of all of Bowie's 70's albums, Diamond Dogs is my least favorite. And it's strange as it's a dystopian concept album with a song "1984," one of my all time favorite dystopias. However, of all the glam rock albums it seems the most stale. It was probably the lack of Mick Ronson on the album and on the titular track that made it slide. Bowie's guitar work isn't too shabby, but it lacks the bravado and style of Ronson. "Diamond Dogs" is still a killer track. As Bowie was transitioning to a new band on this album, most of the music is Bowie's own doing, including the super catchy sax riff throughout the track. It's another reason why I don't generally love this album. Bowie's best work was always backed by great collaboration, but here it's a one man show. It's one of only two songs from Diamond Dogs to show face on this list with the other one a long way off from here.

41. "Slow Burn" (Heathen - 2002) In my humble opinion, "Slow Burn" is Bowie's final great single. Although it won't be the last song we see from Heathen, it is the only single from the album to make the cut. It could be my bias for Pete Townshend, who also delivers one of his best and probably the last best guitar solo and performance since "Eminence Front" in 1982, but "Slow Burn" is a fantastic track. It's a timely song, filled with Bowie's usual paranoid vision of society. The line "but who are we?/So small in times such as these" is fitting today, 10 years after the song was originally released. Sure, ten years isn't that long, especially since most of Bowie's material on this list is verging on 40 years old, but it's definitely still a feeling that many post 9/11ers are feeling. Unease about our cultural direction, our political quagmires and just general day to day living are all easily relatable to this hard rocker of a song. By no means am I saying Bowie intentionally went for something with a message, but there is no denying that a line like "And the walls shall have eyes/And the doors shall have ears/But we'll dance in the dark/And they'll play with our lives" is a little too close to reality.

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