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 Bowie Question
Author: breno 
Date:   02-01-16 11:47

I was reading Time magazine's special Bowie issue, and it makes the same observation that almost every other publication has made, that Earthling's dive into drum & bass was an abberation in that "for once, Bowie was following a trend rather than starting one."

I'm curious as to why Earthling seems to be the album that keeps getting singled out for that observation? It's not like Bowie invented Philly soul or Krautrock any more than he invented drum & bass. Tin Machine was just Bowie belatedly getting into Glenn Branca and Sonic Youth.

And heck, what Bowie did on Earthling was as innovative as what he did with other forms - drum & bass had not really been applied to traditional pop songwriting until Bowie (and Everything but the Girl) did so. So why the hell does Earthling keep getting singled out as Bowie "for once following a trend," but Young Americans doesn't?

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 Re: Bowie Question
Author: M. Johnson 
Date:   02-01-16 12:37

Not sure this is precisely the reason, but I'll go with this answer:

Earthling keeps getting singled out because of lazy, unreflective "journalism."

But maybe, also because Philly soul, and Krautrock, and noise-rock are templates whereas drum & bass is merely backing. You could strip out the drum & bass backing on the Earthling tracks and be left with actual songs. But Bowies previous "stylistic forays" were creating whole songs out of those styles.

What do you think?

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 Re: Bowie Question
Author: Heff 
Date:   02-01-16 12:49

I'll take a stab. I haven't read the article but sometimes I think some of these appreciations are written by people that haven't been around for the artist's entire career. It's hard to feel the impact of something if you weren't there to experience it in the first place. Since 'Earthling' is recent enough, it gets more attention. Of course, if the author has been around since the `70s, I retract that statement.

When 'Black Tie, White Noise' came out and Bowie toured with Trent Reznor, I seem to remember most of the commentary was about how Bowie was jumping on the industrial bandwagon.



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 Re: Bowie Question
Author: Post-Punk Monk 
Date:   02-01-16 13:31

Except you meant "Outside." "Black Tie, White Noise" was Bowie's acid jazz album!

Former TP subscriber [81, 82, 83, 84]

https://postpunkmonk.com
For further rumination on the Fresh New Sound of Yesterday®

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 Re: Bowie Question
Author: Delvin 
Date:   02-01-16 14:06

I'm guilty of that same "lazy, unreflective journalism," but I'll put forth my suggestion anyway.

Perhaps it's because the sounds reflected in Young Americans and the late-'70s albums were viewed as established sub-genres that could be expected to withstand the test of time -- at least by critics/journalists who give consideration to such issues. Drum-and-bass, when it came along, probably was being seen as a "trend" -- a catchy, insistent sound that nonetheless wasn't expected to stick around more than another year or two, before being supplanted by the next trendy thing in techno/electronica.



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 Re: Bowie Question
Author: MrFab 
Date:   02-01-16 14:48

Actually, Bowie himself said (perhaps with false modesty) that he's always been a follower, not a leader.

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 Re: Bowie Question
Author: Post-Punk Monk 
Date:   02-01-16 16:17

Mr. Bowie was smart enough to be second to market for many trends because his sense of timing was impeccable… in the 70s. After that, I don't think so.

Former TP subscriber [81, 82, 83, 84]

https://postpunkmonk.com
For further rumination on the Fresh New Sound of Yesterday®

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 Re: Bowie Question
Author: M. Johnson 
Date:   02-01-16 21:58

I wasn't saying "drum & bass" is an untrue descriptor of Earthling; just that recent use in retrospectives is probably repeated from other, earlier reviews.

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 Re: Bowie Question
Author: Delvin 
Date:   02-02-16 10:06

> Mr. Bowie was smart enough to be second to market for many trends because his sense of timing
> was impeccable… in the 70s. After that, I don't think so.

True enough. Bowie even was quoted as saying, "It doesn't matter who does it first. It matters who does it second."



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 Re: Bowie Question
Author: Michael Toland 
Date:   02-02-16 12:36

Not to mention who has the songs to provide the infrastructure for whatever the trend of the moment is. And I think Bowie almost always had the songs to back up whatever direction he was exploring - I think his writing is quite underrated, in fact. I think Earthling holds up because of the songs, not the trappings in which they're presented.

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 Re: Bowie Question
Author: breno 
Date:   02-02-16 13:54

I think everyone is on to something when they mention that on Earthling it felt like Bowie was just adding drum & bass trappings to standard Bowie songs. I can see that as a valid criticism and a good reason why Earthling gets singled out for following a trend more than Young Americans does - he wrote Philly soul songs for Young Americans. He just gussied up David Bowie songs with a new sound on Earthling.

What I think Bowie was trying to accomplish was to take a form that was not necessarily geared towards pop songs and make it work in that context. The major figures in drum & bass - Goldie, Roni Size, DJ Rap, etc. - had not yet attempted to write drum & bass pop songs - their stuff was more geared for extended club experiences, not to be tunes people would get stuck in their heads.

So Bowie was attempting something innovative, but he didn't go far enough. Around the same time as Earthling, Everything But the Girl put out Walking Wounded, which went much further in incorporating the actual structure of drum & bass into pop songs, rather than opting to just graft the hyperactive drum machines onto songs that wouldn't sound much different without them. (My Bloody Valentine was attempting to do a similar thing by merging drum & bass and Shoegaze at a genetic level, but no one got to hear any of the results for almost 20 years, on "Wonder 2".) Bowie dipped his toes in the waters, EBTG jumped in. Had Bowie committed a bit more, the "following a trend" criticism might not get hitched to Earthling as much as it does.

So yeah, I get why Earthling is singled out now, though I still think it's weird that write-ups that almost always mention what a chameleon he was at following trends then turn around and act like this was the only time he ever did so. It wasn't - it was just the most obvious time that he didn't do it as successfully as he might have.



Post Edited (02-02-16 17:22)

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 Re: Bowie Question
Author: MrFab 
Date:   02-02-16 14:53

Quote:

it felt like Bowie was just adding drum & bass trappings to standard Bowie songs.

Since "Graceland" Paul Simon's made a career out of just such a strategy. If you've heard the "Graceland" demos, you can hear how they really are your basic Simon folkie pop songs, but he gussied them up with African trappings, as opposed to having songs come organically out of the African rhythms, the way Eno & the Heads did in their "Bush of Ghosts"/"Remain in Light" period. Simon then did the same thing with Brazilian music, electronica, etc. Yet for some reason he gets acclaim for the very thing that Bowie was criticized for (no acclaim from ME, mind you!)



Post Edited (02-02-16 14:54)

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 Re: Bowie Question
Author: Delvin 
Date:   04-12-17 14:40

Lon Palmer and I got into a similar discussion, not too long ago. We considered that everything Bowie released between Ziggy Stardust and Station to Station could be viewed as somehow "derivative" of a trend ... even if the trend was one that Bowie himself had generated.

Young Americans, as discussed here, followed the Philly soul style. And really, Bowie's next three studio albums following Ziggy offer fairly minor variations on the sound and stance of that album (not to mention its star's appearance). Indeed, we went so far as to call those four albums, collectively, "the Ziggy franchise."



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 Re: Bowie Question
Author: HollowbodyKay 
Date:   04-16-17 12:56

Quote:

So why the hell does Earthling keep getting singled out as Bowie "for once following a trend ...


Lazy journalism.

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