Lodger (1979)

1979

TRACKS

1. Fantastic Voyage: A political commentary song about nuclear war, finally resurrected to brilliant effect for the 2004 Reality tour, still sounds relevant lyrically and a showcase for Bowie’s vocal talents and his ever-increasing baritone. This marvellous bass/drums/piano song has no less than three mandolins playing along, but they’re buried so deep in the mix they go unnoticed. 9.0

2. African Night Flight: Machine gun expressionist delivery, quite unlike anything he’d done before (or since), and an interesting track full of loops and Eno’s ‘cricket menace’ which appears in the driving coda just before (what sounds like) Swahili chanting weaves its way into the piece. And this was even before world music had a name. In retrospect somewhat reminiscent of the very good Eno/Byrne collaboration My Life in the Bush of Ghosts which was recorded around the same time. 7.0

3. Move On: Charming little first-person wanderlust themed song and a minor favourite. All the Young Dudes backwards ends up sounding like a tribal chant, but the best thing about this song is the lyrics, voice and the delivery and the unerring drum shuffle underneath suggesting movement. 7.0

4. Yassassin (Turkish for Long Live): An awkward venture into eastern reggae saved by an electric violin solo by ex-Hawkwind member Simon House. Experimental, features some intersting guitar by the ever-creative Adrian Belew. 6.0

5. Red Sails: Masterpiece #28. Belew’s guitar in all its unedited glory finally comes to the forefront here in this swashbuckling classic, the highest point of the album, and one of the great Bowie songs. Has the feel of a traditional Japanese influence in the verses, despite the buccaneer lyrics, Neu! references and thunderous outro. The epitome of the late 70’s new wave synth sound, another genre that can be attributed to Bowie himself. 10.0

6. DJ: A mood shift from side one to a more focussed pop sound, although this lyrically complex track has an eclectic brew of electric violin, guitar solos and synth along with a classic Bowie lyric which makes for one of the great warped-rock Bowie singles (and videos) of all time. 8.5

7. Look Back in Anger: Impressive vocal performance Look Back in Anger possesses a terrific opening verse, fantasy-themed lyrics, with a blistering rhythm guitar solo by Carlos Alomar, and a fine melodramatic chorus of soaring vocals. 8.0

8. Boys Keep Swinging: Same chords as Fantastic Voyage, the musicians swapped instruments achieving a very post-punk primitive sound, which is somewhat jarring as well as Bowie’s deep-voiced oddball lyrics about boys. A very strange video of Bowie in drag shown on the Kenny Everitt Video Show in 1979 did its hit-single potential no favours. 8.0

9. Repetition: A song of spousal abuse sung in a cold un-emotive fashion, without any showboating or histrionics, over an appropriately queasy and unrelenting George Murray bassline – underrated and another album highlight. 8.0

10. Red Money: An inferior reworking of Iggy’s classic Sister Midnight, this track has some interesting moments (eg: a nice little guitar lick, multi-tracked vocals) however a disappointing way to finish the album. 6.5

ALBUM RATING: 8.0

VERDICT: An experimental album of good materiel rather than a brilliant cohesive whole, Bowie was coming down off the artistic and commercial success of the 1978 world tour and lyrically was continuing on with the travel motif laid down by The Secret Life of Arabia. Lodger is the third and final instalment in the Berlin trilogy (although recorded in Switzerland), is equally experimental as the previous two albums (minus the wonderful instrumentals) but is the most underwhelming of the three and can almost come off as a transitional album between “Heroes” and Scary Monsters rather than part of a trilogy. Unfortunately there is not the same amount of creative grandeur or sheer brilliance as Low of “Heroes” and the mix is muddy and hollow (Belew had just excelled on tour, but his guitar is surprisingly inconspicuous, and much of his work on the album was composited from multiple takes played against backing tracks of which he had no prior knowledge, not even the key), and some songs unfocussed. The input of Brian Eno had also noticeably decreased although featured in many co-write credits. That said, Lodger is a daring and original work without a single dud among its avant-pop, which rewards with repeated listens and is split into two clearly defined sides: side one a worldly travelogue, and side two dealing with existential decay which plays like an alt-world greatest hits album. Bowie produced several film-clips (as they were called back then) for a number of singles to promote this album, however had the rug pulled from under him and was out-Bowied somewhat with the emergence of, at worst Bowie clones (Gary Numan), and at best intellectual cutting edge art-rockers (Talking Heads), and was far from a commercial success. The cover is Bowie’s strangest, although the gatefold sleeve of deathbeds is compelling.

NEXT: Silhouettes and Shadows…

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