Monday, February 22, 2016

29 Days of Bowie: Outside

Released on September 26, 1995 by Virgin Records, Outside is a concept album based on David Bowie’s short story The Diary of Nathan Adler that revolved around a murder mystery that included body parts used as art. Produced with Brian Eno and David Richards, the album marks a reunion between Bowie and Eno since their groundbreaking collaboration in the late 70s as the album would also feature other recurring collaborators in guitarists Carlos Alomar, Kevin Armstrong, and Reeves Gabrels, multi-instrumentalist Edral Kiziclay, pianist Mike Garson, and drummer Sterling Campbell along with several session musicians. While it was originally supposed to be a multi-part album with a second part called Contamination, the album would be considered one of Bowie’s most daring releases in his career.

With all of the songs and segues told in characters and through abstract, cut-up lyrics, the album is told through a unique narrative that blends elements of rock, industrial, jazz, electronic, and avant-garde such as the album’s opening track in the track Leon Takes Us Outside where it features guitar and piano flourishes along with ominous keyboards with Bowie reciting words as the character Leon Blank which serves as an intro to the album’s title track as it is this eerie, mid-tempo piece with driving guitars from Carlos Alomar and Reeves Gabrels, a steady rhythm from drummer Sterling Campbell and bassist Edral Kiziclay, and some electronic textures from Kiziclay and Brian Eno while Bowie sings haunting lyrics that relates to the world the story is set.

The album’s first single in The Hearts Filthy Lesson is mid-tempo piece that is part-industrial and part-art rock with its driving guitars, swirling keyboards, pulsating live and electronic beats, and Bowie’s eerie vocals with these chilling lyrics as the character of Nathan Adler where the track include these piano flourishes by Mike Garson. The narrative continues to introduce the characters and settings as the track A Small Plot of Land with its mixture of jazz-based pianos from Garson, Eno’s soothing ambient-based synthesizers, jazz-inspired rhythms, and Bowie’s haunting vocals play into the world of Oxford Town, New Jersey while its segue in Baby Grace (A Horrid Cassette) introduces the character of Baby Grace Blue as it is piece led by Gabrels’ swirling guitar, Garson’s piano, and the voice of a young girl by Bowie describing the events in the narrative.

The album’s third single in Hallo Spaceboy that is sung in the character of Paddy is this fast-paced, charging industrial track with crashing drums, driving guitars, warbling synthesizers, Garson’s intense piano, and Bowie’s haunting vocals as he sings these abstract lyrics filled with ambiguity and strange imagery. The haunting ballad The Motel that is sung from the perspective of Leon Blank as it includes Garson’s flourishing pianos, soothing bass lines, and very melancholic lyrics. The upbeat I Have Not Been to Oxford Town is a funk-based track led by Alomar’s rhythmic guitar work and some warbling electronic textures as Bowie sings some strange lyrics as Leon. The mid-tempo, electronic-driven No Control has Bowie singing as Adler with different vocal mixes as it plays into the intensity of the case that Adler is taking in as it includes throbbing bass lines.

A segue in Algeria Touchshriek introduces the character as Bowie speaks in a very creepy vocal with a background of ominous textures of guitars, pianos, and synthesizers as it leads to The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (as Beauty) with Bowie playing the character of The Artist/Minotaur as it feature these driving guitar melodies, pulsating beats, and warbling electronics that intensifies as the song continues where Bowie sings dark lyrics to the accompaniment of Garson’s piano. Another segue in Ramona A. Stone/I Am with Name that introduces the character and her acolytes is a track led by Campbell’s rhythmic fills, soothing synthesizers, and Bowie’s distorted vocals as Stone with these scary lyrics filled with a sense of terror.

The Artist/Minotaur returns in Wishful Beginning as this very eerie track with these brooding textures of synthesizers, clanging percussions, and Bowie’s subdued yet mesmerizing vocals that play into a sense of death. We Prick You is this upbeat track with warbling synthesizers, pulsating beats, flourishing pianos, and driving guitars that has Bowie singing in different vocal pitches as Court Justice Members to play into the chaos of what is going on in the story. The first segue of Nathan Adler where Bowie speaks in a raspy, American accent to playful guitar melodies by Alomar as it’s one of the humorous tracks on the album that leads to the very intense I’m Deranged as it is this upbeat track with pulsating and hammering beats, driving guitars, flourishing pianos, and ominous keyboards with Bowie singing in a very haunting vocal as The Artist/Minotaur as it expresses the character’s mental state.

Thru’ These Architect’s Eyes from the perspective of Leon Blank is this bopping, guitar-driven track that features driving riffs from Kevin Armstrong as well as warbling textures from Gabrels that is followed by Garson’s piano as Bowie sings in a wailing vocal to these abstract lyrics. Following a second segue of the Adler character that is led by Adler’s deranged vocal to some pulsating beats, the track then leads to the album closer in a re-recorded version of Strangers When We Meet from The Buddha of Suburbia as it a somber and touching song with a more livelier sound from the band and piano flourishes from Garson as it is sung from Blank’s perspective.

From the 1996 re-release in Australia and Japan, the album features a second disc that includes an edited version of Strangers When We Meet, live versions of Under Pressure, The Man Who Sold the World in a new electronic arrangement, and Moonage Daydream and two remixes. The first is a drum n’ bass remix of Hallo Spaceboy by the Pet Shop Boys that features additional vocals from Pet Shop Boys vocalist Neil Tennant who sings lyrics from Space Oddity as well as sounds of swirling electronics. The second is a remix of The Hearts Filthy Lesson where it’s really the album mix but the Japanese version has a different remix known as the Rubber Mix as it’s a mix that breaks down some of the rhythm aspects of the album with more elements on the bass and multi-tracked vocals for something more slower and with a throbbing rhythm.

From the 2004 limited-edition two-disc version of the album that would also be part of a box set in 2007 that included deluxe editions of subsequent albums to follow are two B-sides, alternate versions of songs, and several remixes. Among them are five remixes of The Hearts Filthy Lesson as the first by Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor, along with then-NIN drummer Chris Vrenna and Dave “Rave” Ogilvie, for alternative radio as it emphasizes more on a slower, industrial-based beats with some rapid electro-beats in the background and charging guitars. Along with the Rubber Mix of the song from the Japanese bonus-disc edition of the album, the Simple Text mix of the song as it largely relies on swirling and driving synthesizer with some low-key bass groves and vocal mixes. The Filthy Mix relies largely relies on its industrial textures with its emphasis on its drums, Bowie’s vocal spurts, and warbling synthesizers while the Good Karma mix by Tim Simenon features many elements of the song while Simenon plays along with many of the textures by adding some scratches and bring in portions of the instruments and then not feature them as it’s one of the highlights of the second disc.

The four remixes of Hallo Spaceboy with the Pet Shop Boys include a twelve-inch mix that is essentially an expanded version of the remix with more dance rhythms in its beats. The Double Click mix features more throbbing click-beats and guitar spurts as well as scratchy and pulsating percussion rhythms in the background. The instrumental mix of the Pet Shop Boys remix is extended to play into its dance rhythms and synthesizers while the Lost in Space mix as it includes some warbling synthesizers, throbbing rhythm, and wavy keyboard textures to play into a sci-fi feel for the mix. A remix of A Small Plot of Land for the 1996 film Basquiat, that Bowie was in as Andy Warhol, as it just features Bowie’s vocals with ambient-based synthesizers as it adds a dramatic tone to the track. A jungle mix of I’m Deranged features an array of throbbing beats and ambient-based synthesizers to accompany Bowie’s vocals while retaining the elements of guitars and piano from the original track to go for something that is more groove-based.

The second disc features an alternate version of I Am a Name that features a different mix of its beats as well as two B-sides. The first in Get Real from the Strangers When We Meet single as it is this fast, upbeat rocker with bopping rhythms, wailing guitars, and Bowie’s low-baritone vocals as it features some abstract yet snarling lyrics as it is a real gem. The B-side for The Hearts Filthy Lesson in Nothing to Be Desired is this mid-tempo track with crashing piano flourishes, funky rhythms, and driving guitars as it has Bowie singing with backing vocalists in this playful song with some offbeat lyrics.

Outside is a phenomenal album from David Bowie that features amazing contributions from his recurring host of collaborators in Brian Eno, Carlos Alomar, Reeves Gabrels, Edral Kiziclay, Mike Garson, and Sterling Campbell. While it is definitely the densest and most challenging album of his career, it is also one of the most uncompromising and fearless albums of his career where he goes all out in blending the concept of art and music into one though it is unfortunate that a sequel for the album will never see the light of day. In the end, Outside is a spectacular album from David Bowie.

Studio Releases: David Bowie (1967 album) - David Bowie (1969 album) - The Man Who Sold the World - Hunky Dory - The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - Aladdin Sane - Pin Ups - Diamond Dogs - Young Americans - Station to Station - Low - "Heroes" - Lodger - Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) - Let’s Dance - Tonight - Never Let Me Down - Tin Machine - Tin Machine II - Black Tie White Noise - Earthling - ‘Hours…’ - Heathen - Reality - The Next Day - *

Live Releases: David Live - Stage - Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars - Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby - Bowie at the Beeb - (Live at Fashion Rocks (w/ Arcade Fire)) - (Live Santa Monica ‘72) - (Glass Spider Live) - (VH1 Storytellers) - (A Reality Tour)

Soundtracks: Christiane F. - Labyrinth - The Buddha of Suburbia

Miscellaneous: Peter and the Wolf - Baal - Sound + Vision - (Early On (1964-1966)) - (All Saints) - Toy - (Nothing Has Changed)

© thevoid99 2016

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