In 1979, David Bowie released the often overlooked album Lodger, something of a transitional album between the innovative grandeur of the Brian Eno-collaborated Low and “Heroes” (both 1977), and the strong creative footing of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) released the following year. Just about to take on the Australian leg of his artistic pinnacle Stage tour, Bowie sojourned in Switzerland (Lodger was not, as you may have been led to believe, recorded in Berlin) with his multi-racial blend of musicians, to push his great art into a challenging new direction. Lodger, from its profoundly European sense of pop drama to its rhythms and grooves, rewards with repeated listens and is split into two clearly defined sides.
Side One is a worldly travelogue with titles such as Move On, a charming first-person wanderlust ditty, Fantastic Voyage, a political commentary song about nuclear war that showcases Bowie’s rich ever-increasing baritone, and African Night Flight exemplifying Eno’s creative, yet by now, diminishing input (the record was originally going to be titled Planned Accidents). Better still is album highlight Red Sails; a great swashbuckling classic and one of the best ever Bowie songs with its buccaneer lyrics, Neu! references and thunderous outro, it is the epitome of late 70’s new wave, a genre that can be attributed to Bowie himself.
Side Two addresses subject matter such as existential decay (DJ) and domestic violence (the queasy Repetition), but also plays like an alternative world greatest hits package. Classic Bowie songs such as Look Back in Anger and Boys Keep Swinging develop a mood shift towards a more muscular rock sound and the eclectic brew of violin (ex-Hawkwind Simon House), Adrian Belew’s exciting guitar treatments, and some career-best vocals from Bowie himself, suggest that this was arguably his greatest ever ensemble.
At the time Lodger was unfairly dismissed by the critics, and he was out-Bowied somewhat with the emergence of (at worst) Bowie clones like Gary Numan and (at best) intellectual cutting edge art-rockers Talking Heads. However upon re-examination it is clear Lodger is a daring and original work without a single dud among its avant-pop.1. Fantastic Voyage ∗∗∗∗ 2. African Night Flight ∗∗∗∗ 3. Move On ∗∗∗∗ 4. Yassassin (Turkish for Long Live) ∗∗∗ 5. Red Sails ∗∗∗∗∗ 6. DJ ∗∗∗∗∗ 7. Look Back in Anger ∗∗∗∗ 8. Boys Keep Swinging ∗∗∗∗ 9. Repetition ∗∗∗ 10. Red Money ∗∗∗