Sunday, February 14, 2016

29 Days of Bowie: Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)

Released on September 12, 1980 by RCA Records, Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) is fourteenth studio album by David Bowie that served as the culmination of everything he had done prior while dabbling into the world of post-punk and new wave in his own interpretation. Produced with Tony Visconti, the album would mark the last time Bowie would work with drummer Dennis Davis and bassist George Murray on an album while the record would feature contributions from recurring collaborators Carlos Alomar and Robert Fripp as well as guest appearances from Chuck Hammer, Roy Bittan, and Pete Townshend.

Opening and closing the album is a song called It’s No Game as the opening track features a Japanese woman talking rapidly to this steady, mid-tempo rhythm with these warbling guitar textures from Robert Fripp and Bowie singing in a wailing vocal filled with these very abstract lyrics. In the song’s second part, Bowie sings more calmly as it adds this element of something that is somber but also very dark. Up the Hill Backwards is this strange track that starts off as this upbeat song with these bopping array of drums and percussions with producer Tony Visconti playing an acoustic guitar. The song then turns into a mid-tempo track with this steady rhythm and Bowie singing with backing vocalists on this song filled with ideas of struggle but also with some element of hope as it includes some nice guitar textures from Fripp and Alomar along with nice drum fills by Dennis Davis.

Of the three singles from the album, its title track is considered one of Bowie’s most ferocious songs with its wailing and charging guitars, walloping rhythms, and warbling synthesizers as Bowie sings very dark and chilling lyrics. It’s a song that serves as a prototype of sorts to industrial rock as it is one of Bowie’s great songs. The album’s leading single is a sequel to 1969’s Space Oddity in Ashes to Ashes as it is this mid-tempo, synthesizer-driven track with these hypnotic melodies courtesy of Chuck Hammer’s guitar-synthesizer work and Bowie singing very somberly as it relates to Major Tom’s return to Earth as a man who is no longer the same while Bowie would make reference to Space Oddity in the lyrics as it is one of Bowie’s defining singles. The album’s second single Fashion is considered one of Bowie’s funnier tunes in terms of mixture of funk, rock, and electronic textures as it is this strange mid-tempo track with a bopping rhythm and Fripp’s playful guitar while Bowie sings these odd lyrics that play into the fallacy of trends and ideologies as it’s told in a very humorous fashion.

From the album’s second side in cuts like Teenage Wildlife and Because You’re Young are songs that play into the world of youth with the former being this mid-tempo piece that includes these lovely guitar solos from Fripp and Bowie singing evocatively with references to the New Romantics movement. The latter is another mid-tempo track that features guitar work from Pete Townshend of the Who as it is a hopeful song as it relates to the plight of youth with these walloping yet bopping rhythms from Davis and bassist George Murray. Scream Like a Baby is a dark, mid-tempo track that feature these ferocious and driving guitars by Fripp and Alomar as well as Bowie singing in a calm but eerie tone to these very angry lyrics as it relates to insanity and imprisonment that is filled with these amazing imagery and some synthesizer textures. The album’s lone cover is a song called Kingdom Come that is written by Television’s Tom Verlaine as it is this steady yet upbeat track with these nice guitar flourishes by Fripp while Bowie singing in a tremendous vocal to these very strange yet evocative lyrics.

From the 1992 Rykodisc reissue comes four bonus tracks that includes two re-worked versions of Panic in Detroit and Space Oddity made and recorded in 1979. The former is given a mixture of rock and funk with more walloping rhythms by Davis’ drums and driving guitars from Alomar with Bowie singing in a more rapid tone to the song as it includes a strange, robotic vocal in the instrumental bridge. The latter is a stripped-down acoustic version of the song with Bowie singing in a different vocal pitch from than in the original as he’s later accompanied by a slow drum fill, bass, guitar, and pianos as it has Bowie bringing new life to the song but also serve as a precursor of what is to come in Ashes to Ashes.

A cover of the Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill song Alabama Song is from the sessions for Lodger as it has this air of funk with bits of cabaret as it was a non-LP U.K. single as it’s a song that starts off funky and then becomes this more mid-tempo track as it is one of Bowie’s finest covers. The instrumental Crystal Japan which was released as non-LP single for Japanese audiences is an ambient-inspired track led by these dreamy synthesizer textures with some melodic riffs and low-key Japanese percussions in the background as it is one of Bowie’s finest gems.

Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) is a magnificent album from David Bowie. It’s an album that is filled with lots of weird ideas but it’s also very accessible in terms of what he was able to with these unconventional ideas and turn into something that is catchy. Even as the album is often considered the last great work of his career during his illustrious run of 1969 to 1980 as it would become the standard bearer of later albums to follow. In the end, Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) is a monstrous yet rapturous 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 - Let’s Dance - Tonight - Never Let Me Down - Tin Machine - Tin Machine II - Black Tie White Noise - Outside - Earthling - ‘Hours…’ - Heathen - Reality - The Next Day - *

Live Releases: David Live - Stage - Ziggy Stardust and 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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