I don't own a single Bowie album from the '80s apart from Scary Monsters, which is a great disc. I've heard them all at one point or another, and didn't find anything on them compelling enough to want to hear again. Quite frankly, Bowie didn't do "80's music" as well as a whole sh*tload of '80s artists did, including Eurythmics, Duran Duran and Culture Club.
That having been said, I think his big hits of the 80's were all fantastic examples of '80s pop – some of the very best, particularly the singles off of Let's Dance. I just don't think he managed to assemble an album full of great pop music, and all his desperate experiments since then have just left me cold. Worse, they're all pretty pathetic when compared with artists like Kate Bush and Bjork, who went way, way beyond Bowie when it came to experimenting with technology and styles, and who nevertheless managed to produce tuneful, engaging music.
I think Heathen is the first halfway solid *album* Bowie has released since Scary Monsters, and even then it pales in comparison. If you compare his output to other '60s / '70s artists he ends up looking alright – he's holding up better than Paul McCartney or the Stones, although even they manage to spin off another classic Stones track on every album – but his work is almost embarrassing in comparison to that of '80s acts like Annie Lennox or Sting or Prince, who can all still assemble solid albums (Lennox's latest is brilliant).
Actually, come to think of it, there are plenty of '70s acts that can still pump out product better than Bowie's post-Scary Monsters output. The last Fleetwood Mac album was better than Heathen, even if it's too damn long and badly in need of Christine McVie's light pop charms, and the new Blondie record is the best thing any of them have been involved with since Autoamerican in 1981. I haven't picked up Bowie's latest yet – none of the tracks I've sampled have grabbed me the way some of the tracks on Heathen did – so it's possible he's still on an upswing after 1999's lethargic hours. He needs to concentrate on writing great melodies and interesting lyrics though, and leave the production to Visconti. I've seen waaaaaaay too much emphasis on style and not enough on content with *all* of his post-'79 material. Tracks like "Slow Burn" and "Slip Away" prove he can still write a decent tune. He desperately needs to save up an album's worth of tuneful material like that.