1. Outside the opening track Blackstar (which is actually one of Bowie best ever song he ever written), it completely lack of vocal hooks.
2. This is groove based music and as I have established on Music Babble. Beethoven 7th Symphony rendered that genre obsolete :)
Those two weakness really by rights should have made me denounced this album as unlistenable garbage as which I was leaning towards prior to this relisten outside of the opening track BUT......
a) While my post-Beethoven personality I's against groove based music as a matter of principles. The Pre-Beethoven persona that had some tolerability towards groove based music recognises that the key to well-written groove based music isn't the groove itself but the surrounding instruments. A repetitive groove + variable, dense atmospheric texture can create music that is simultaneously hypnotic but interesting, varied and not monotnoous or boring . This is how Can Tago Mago managed to make the groove based genre work. Luckily David Bowie managed to a lesser extent succed as well.
b) While the vocal melodies are quite underwritten and showcase David Bowie career spanning weakness of being an inconsistent songwriter, the saxophone and to the lesser extent the guitar players compensates by creating some memorable soloing. Without the saxophone player the Dollars Day would be a pretty underwhelming underwritten ballad, however the saxophone soloes add a much needed tunefulnessto the song. Same with the saxophone and guitar player in "I Can't Give Everything Away"
c) There is an emotional weight and intensity to the songs. For example the build up to the saxophone soloing at "íTis a Pity She Was a #####". The songs do have an emotional arc to them and there are builds up and climaxes to them.
So what should have really been an awful album by the weakness I mention turns out to be pretty good and interesting album.
Track By Track Highlights/Lowlights
Blackstar - One of Bowie best ever songs. THe way the creepiy opening section breaks into this soulful heavenly midsection is glorious. IT's also by far the most tuneful moment of the entire album.
íTis a Pity She Was a ##### - Essentially pop/rock music version of Miles Davis On The Corner (along wiht National Anthem by Radiohead although the jazz elements are more integrated in this song while with Radiohead it was more with the climaz). Jazzy krautrock.I probably prefer Radiohead's attempt of this more but this is a decent alternative. I enjoyed all the saxophone interludes and the cacophone at the end. Although I have to say, this song is completely tuneless but I managed to enjoyed it for it's atmospheric elements despite that fact. Decent song - could have been great with better vocal melodies but ultimately I'll give it an overall pass mark.
Lazarus - I don't care much for groove based music in general but I do admit the groove underpinning the song by the funky bass, ascending distorted guitar and the descending saxophone line does work. However despite it being a pretty groove, when I was listening to this song, I was really almost about to say the groove wear out it's welcome until, a) David Bowie started to add some intensity and desperation to his vocal lines in the middle of the song creating a buildup in intensity b) That intensity was release with the saxophone solo at the end of the song. Those two elements made me give the song a thumbs up.
Sue (or in a Season of Crime) - Ughr, I suspect my reaction to this song is similar to people's reaction to "Let's Get Funky". Really really ugly music with really really ugly riff. However the worst thing about it is that it's mood is relentless, there is no variation in intensity in the song. It sustaines it's ugliness the entire song with no respite (unlike the opening track Blackstar).
Girl Loves Me - Double ughrr - This song is atrocious. Bowie singing out of tune to a crappy simple bass line. I have no idea. I'm far less forgiving to this song.
Dollars Day - This really could have been one of Bowie greatest songs if Bowie vocal melodies were a bit better. As it is though we have some pretty piano, nice guitars and a great saxophone solo marred by mediocre vocal melodies. Still I like the unexpected chord changes in the "I'm trying to/dying to" section andI'll give the song a thumbs up due to the saxophone solo. Also good transition to the final track
I Canít Give Everything Away - Good song - I'll give a slightly pass mark on the vocal melodies. It is on the simple side and it does repeat too much but it's moderately catchy and I like the vocal leap to the chorus. I would say the quality and repetitive nature of the vocal hooks would be enough for a 2-3 minute song but not a 5 minute song. However what brings this song over the line is that I enjoy the underlying synth backing and harmonica call back and most importantly the saxophone solo and the chaotic guitar playing at the end that gives a nice cacophony ending so that when the rhythm section suddenly stops leaving the heavenly synth chord. It creates this atmosphere of the chaos of life leading to the peaceful white light of death. It's a nice ending of an album.
Overall I'll say it's a quite good album. However my dogmatic bias of judging music means that I could never ever think it's a great album. However I could kinda see how someone who doesn't have a dogmatic dislike for groove based music and doesn't require an album to have quality tuneful melodies could worship this album especially since it is quite an emotional capstone to a career.
so I don't love the album but I can kinda see how someone could love it when I try to judge things outside my own standards.
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