David Bowie, Earthling (Arista)

reviewed by Russell Bailey of the New Zealand Herald
Copyright 1997 NZ Herald

By the title you'd guess that Dame David has come over all galactic again.

Yes Major Tom is back reporting for duty, now fifty years old unbowed by the failures of his nineties comeback campaigns. Here he's found a way of sticking the present ( the fashionably propulsive clatter of drum'n'bass) to a reworked past (mostly the mad glam electronic funk of Lodger and Scarey Monsters and a few of those aliens he's loved before) with unusually compelling results.

It's certainly more accesible- tunes you can sing in the shower, a few songs you could put on a party tape- than the previous Outside. That one with it's industrial scorch was a fine album, though overblown by it's conceptualefforts to turn the serial killer themes (oh how 1995 that was) OF The like of Seven into a radio play between songs.

It was also meant to be part of an ongoing pre-millenial trilogy too- or maybe that was just a sly inducement for critics to compare it against his classic late 70's Brian Eno-assisted Low/Heroes/Lodgers period.

Earthling has some shadesof those among it's squalling electronics, mostly care of sideman Reeves Gabrels' ray gun guitar and Eno is there helping with the dark and thrilling stomp behind "I'm afraid of Americans".

The others like that (notably Dead man walking with it's sprawling piano from Mike Garson) manage as much cool urgency as those drum'n'bass glam swaggers of the opener Little Wonder, the frenetic Battle of Britain, and Telling Lies.

It does lose it's way on the dull brooding of Seven years in Tibet (he's doing some music for the film of the book- hope this isn't it) and in a few other spots.

So Earthling turns out a rough diamond, slightly dogged by new tricks. Still it could turn out to be his "Let's Dance" for the 90's.

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