David Bowie - Low (1977) (1 Viewer)

travispickle

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Incidentally, Bowie's own compilation of his instrumental music, All Saints, is worth checking out. A great selection of key tracks, It covers the years 1977 to 1999.
It's probably on YouTube, I can't link to it using my stoopid phone!
 

GO

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I've listened to this album 6 times.Its fucking amazing..still as great as the first time I ever heard it 25 years ago.In fact it gets better with each listen.
When I was in ALDI today I was hearing all sorts in it ..from u2 to basically half of the pop in the 80's.Its definitely one of the seminal lps of the 70s.

I thought I would be great at dancing about architecture here in the album club,but I think I'm happy enough to listen,learn and read what better reviewers than me have to say...well so far anyway.

You can't be great at everything!

(Unlike David Bowie and his saxophone)

Also the remix of Sound and Vision thats tacked on the end of the 1991 cd is woeful..but still fun in a perverse way
 

travispickle

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I've listened to this album 6 times.Its fucking amazing..still as great as the first time I ever heard it 25 years ago.In fact it gets better with each listen.
When I was in ALDI today I was hearing all sorts in it ..from u2 to basically half of the pop in the 80's.Its definitely one of the seminal lps of the 70s.

I thought I would be great at dancing about architecture here in the album club,but I think I'm happy enough to listen,learn and read what better reviewers than me have to say...well so far anyway.

You can't be great at everything!

(Unlike David Bowie and his saxophone)

Also the remix of Sound and Vision thats tacked on the end of the 1991 cd is woeful..but still fun in a perverse way
Totally agree.
I love the mix of a really rockin' funky band and the electronics. It must have been an odd one at the time; I'm sure fans and critics alike didn't know what to make of it.
I had side 2 on when I was reading there on Saturday and it also works as lovely, relaxing ambient music- unlike Heroes which was harsher and much more edgy (Sense of Doubt, hullo!).
Low is a great lp.
It's worth listening to Iggy's The Idiot alongside Low as well, as Bowie said The Idiot was kind of a warm up for Low (and was recorded in the same studio as Pin Ups, Chateau d'Herouville in France).
10/10 for the Album Club so far!!
 

Anthony

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I had this on all over the weekend. Maybe Pete's spotify sounds like vinyl buy I have this on record and it sounds shite, so I've only played it a handful of times in the 4 or 5 years since I got it. Soooo, it has been a pleasure to listen to this digitally and I got more out of it than ever before.
Side one is frustrating, as previously stated every song could be a minute or two longer (I'm sure I have a longer version of Breaking Glass somewhere).
Side two never did anything for me. I get it. However I'm warming to it.
Also, best Bowie album cover.
 

GO

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Side two is pure ganja music.

We used to always stick this album on when we were smoking the ganj back in Manor street c.1990

Which was pretty much all we did so it got played a lot lol
 

ann post

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Somewhere In the big freeze of 2010/11 I was doing the airport run to pickup my folks from Belfast. To put it mildly, this was a ridiculous drive to be attempting. The road from Derry to Belfast is a lot like the Wicklow mountains. Very high altitudes exposed to snow. It’s a national route, so it does get ploughed and gritted though and remains open 90% if the time. A few weeks before this, a friend had given me Low on CD and I’d been enjoying side one.

The glenshane pass was open, but only about 3 people, me included, were stupid enough to drive it. Anything over about 20mph was insanity. It had been snowing up there for so long that the two lane road had almost vertical walls of snow on either side taller than a car, or even a van. The result is that you were driving along about 20mph on a black strip with white walls, and a blizzard coming down all the time almost entirely on your own, maybe seeing some headlights every ten minutes.

This is in fact, the best possible environment to listen to side two of Low. Egg mentioned a few posts back that he didn’t know what this was supposed to be the soundtrack to. I recommend lots of snow, but maybe on a bus or something.

Low is my favourite Bowie – though ‘station to station’ grows on me a lot these days.

There have been a lot of people talking about how ‘incomplete’ the songs are on side one. This is true. At least two of those songs had their third verse cut because Bowie wasn’t sure about what he was saying. He had a pretty busy few years (see link below) and the best guess is that he was pretty lost at this time.

Maybe ‘sound and vision’ is closest to what people want from Bowie, and ‘always crashing’ is the only song that ends without a fade on the album. All the fades and truncation just make it a better album IMHO – the pace, the transience of everything, nothing hangs around, it’s just running from idea to idea for whole first side, and it doesn’t really take a breath till Warzawa, and it’s almost like a complete halt rather than a change of pace.

I give this record about 10/10. As far as I’m concerned it’s a yardstick album. It’s more about creativity than classic bowie cuts (though it has at least 3 of these). Bowie doesn’t know what he wants to sing about, but he knows he wants to be in the studio, making sounds and searching for ideas. He’s reinventing himself in public. Right after this he writes ‘Heroes’ – all fully formed songs - in fact people who don’t dig low for its sketchiness might like heroes better.

There isn’t much frame of reference for a half complete rock album that morphs into an ambient work complete with quasi chanting – I’m not sure which commercial artist would be allowed to release this now – a song team would be drafted, or a cover commissioned or some time in a reality tv show. Its way more human than what gets released these days.

Also as mentioned, it sounds a lot like nothing else.

Bowie Golden Years : 1976

The pretense of the record is cool too:

Tony Visconti said:
I find Warszawa very uplifting. Despite a few really bad days we had quite a lot of fun making Low, especially when all the radical ideas were making sense and things were starting to click. I remember after a couple of weeks of recording I made a rough mix of the entire album so far and handed a cassette of it to David. He left the control room waving the cassette over his head and grinned ecstatically saying, "We've got an album, we've got an album." I have to qualify that statement by saying that at the beginning, the three of us agreed to record with no promise that Low would ever be released. David had asked me if I didn't mind wasting a month of my life on this experiment if it didn't go well. Hey, we were in a French chateau for the month of August and the weather was great!
[B said:
Bowie in Record Mirror, September 1977[/B]]

Warszawa is about Warsaw and the very bleak atmosphere I got from the city.

Art Decade is West Berlin - a city cut off from its world, art and culture, dying with no hope of retribution.

Weeping Wall is about the Berlin Wall - the misery of it.

Subterraneans is about the people who got caught in East Berlin after the separation - hence the faint jazz saxophones representing the memory of what it was.
 

kavanelli

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Love this album.

I was about 8 or 9 when I first discovered Bowie, it was a cassette copy of Aladdin Sane. It was my mothers she is a huge fan of Bowie, and although she is not really into his Berlin albums she was more into his early stuff his Glam/Ziggy/Major Tom stuff and I love it straight away.

It wasn't until my Mid to late teens that I first heard Low. I didn't fall for this album straight away it was probably another 10 years again before I listened, and I loved it. Since then the album has been in my top five albums.

I love the way it opens with Speed of Life, it like it starts mid song.

I love the mix of style on the album from the pop of Sound and Vision, to the Kraftwerk inspired Warszawa.

Always Crashing in the Same Car is my favorite Bowie song.

Did I say I love it. 5 Stars
 

Hector Grey

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"something awful" refers to the kabbalistic tree of life, or some shit. Bowie was mad into the occult at the time. And drugs. Probably related facts.
 

MacDara

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Here's my track by track take on Low after a couple more listens:

Side A

'Speed of Life' - what a great opener, love that woozy synth bit especially

'Breaking Glass' - great tune, ends far too soon, they could have jammed it out for another minute and done a shorter fade out

'What In The World' - kind of a throwaway but I dig the baseline, and the vocal overdubs sound great. Would have benefitted from a dead stop rather than a fade out

'Sound and Vision' - another funky bass track, and one of those iconic Bowie vocals, but I could listen to an extended instrumental of this. The track as it is ends far too soon, needed another couple of minutes

'Always Crashing...' - not sold on this one compared to the others, the melody doesn't do anything for me

'Be My Wife' - as I said before, I HATE the rinkydink piano intro, and Bowie's Mockney accent (I know he wasn't putting it on, but here he really is putting it on) sounds really odd compared to his stylings elsewhere on this album. But I like how the noisy guitar solos kinda take over his voice and the song as a whole

'A New Career...' - sounds like early Simple Minds! Could do without the harmonica, but another great bassline with rasps of guitar for texture

Side B

'Warszawa' - I'd be surprised if this wasn't a massive influence on all those late-70s post-punk synth-poppers. Very soundtracky, feels like a completely different piece of work to the music on Side A. I'm not a fan of the chanty vocal that comes in at the four-minute mark, which sets it apart even further

'Art Decade' - prefigures so much of the arty synth drift that would come decades later, it makes me wonder, was anybody else apart from maybe Harmonia or Popul Vuh and their ilk doing anything like this at the time? Were Tangerine Dream a thing yet? What was their frame of reference?

'Weeping Wall' - playful tune, more of a sonic textural experiment than a song as such. I like that masked guitar sound, the vocals not so much

'Subterraneans' - futurism noir, this, with that smoky jazz vibe over that electronic pulse and synth washes

Overall

If I were producing this today, thinking of the record as a whole, I'd rejig the running order to vary up the pace a bit, but I'm from the CD generation, I have to remember the physical separation between the sides of vinyl – you don't have to flip it over if the mood doesn't suit, just move the needle back to the first groove.

So yeah, there's more that I love that I dislike, it's a pretty damn good album.
 

Cornu Ammonis

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'A New Career...' - sounds like early Simple Minds! Could do without the harmonica, but another great bassline with rasps of guitar for texture
No you couldn't.

'Warszawa' - I'd be surprised if this wasn't a massive influence on all those late-70s post-punk synth-poppers.
This track pretty much was the basis for Joy Division. They named the band Warsaw in honour of it (before changing it to Joy Division) and you can really hear its influence on tracks like "Decades".
 

sep;9fuews?

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I think I overdid it a bit with this album a few years back. It's a great album but I find that I don't really want to listen to it. Apart from that...

Speed Of Life - great!
Breaking Glass - Great! I love the low one note riff running under the verses. Side one is full of genius little bits of playing that appear and disappear again as quick. I'm glad these songs are not longer - better to leave you wanting more.
What In The World - Fantastic. The album peaks here unfortunately. I love the way this has a mad metallic beep all the way through, daft guitar playing, clattery drums, catchy hooks all over the place etc.
Sound & Vision - great!
Always Crashing In The Same Car - A bit of a drag after the previous tunes. Too long.
Be My Wife - Very good, but the momentum is lost by now.
A New Career In A New Town - very good...

Side Two - I like all these but not as much as I thought I did, the singing doesn't help.
 

HMD

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First listen and i'm loving it but every song sound like it's cut short like it's for a soundtrack or something.

Listening to the 1999 remaster version on Spotify.

Will post back more details after another couple of listens.
 

rettucs

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I'm struggling with it a little bit. Not with the album per se. Moreso with how to articulate what I want to say about it.

I'm discovering that knowing you like something and knowing why you like something can sometimes be mutually exclusive.
 

travispickle

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I'm struggling with it a little bit. Not with the album per se. Moreso with how to articulate what I want to say about it.

I'm discovering that knowing you like something and knowing why you like something can sometimes be mutually exclusive.
Keep calm and listen to Bowie lad
 

rettucs

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oh man, where to start with this.

I've loved listening to this over the past week. I'd say I'm easily on my 10th listen since last friday and the album sounds better on every listen. Its not a new album to me, but I never gave it the attention I've tried to give it in the past week.

And though great, its been utterly frustrating.

I found it hard to get my head around this album when I sat down to think about it. There are great albums that are great because they have great songs, they have a flow, a well thought out running order, and/or, as my English teacher used to say, a beginning, a middle, and an end.

There are albums that have great songs but are not, in my opinion, amazing (though still great) albums, because they can be hard to listen to. I'm sure we all have albums we love but which we struggle to get through in a single sitting. I'd include 'Have One on Me' by Joanna Newsom in this bracket, or the first Lady Lamb album.

Then there are albums who's songs might be grand, but when put together with other songs, make for a great album (better than the sum of its parts, kinda thing).

I think what I'm trying to say here, rather clumsily, is that there's a kind of formula to what makes a great album.

Then we have Low. If someone gave me this album and said it was a collection of out-takes, or B-sides, or EPs thrown together, I'd have well believed it. Its not a difficult listen, per se, but you do tend to sit up once in a while and think to yourself, 'wait, whats going on here', or, 'where the hell did this bit come from.'

It doesn't have a very seamless flow at all. The first half of the album reminded me a bit of 'Preview', the last track on the end of 'Theres Nothing Wrong With Love' by Built To Spill. This thing;


Its basically a 2-minute joke preview of a fictional upcoming album. They play 3 or 4 second snippets of fictional songs. And thats what the first half of Low is to me (though not with fictional songs). Its like Bowie had a tape with some ideas of songs he was working on, to bounce off someone, then thought, fuck it, just release it.

I tried listening to the album in its own right, without context. But that was impossible. I had to listen around it, read some of the background, just to find out what the hell was going on at the time. So the 'ideas' thing apparently was true. These songs were never originally intended to be released the way they were. And that makes a lot of sense.

Someone (@Lili Marlene, probably), mentioned that the origins of a lot of Britpop are in this album. And that is very evident. And, as @GO said, once you've listened to this album a few times, you start hearing it everywhere, in songs by almost everybody else.

I was out cycling last saturday and a Bluetones song came on. I recognised a riff from Speed of Life. I remember when the first Franz Ferdinand album came out, everyone raving about it saying it was very like Gang of Four. Me hole, it was basically Low by Bowie.

And then theres Low, the band, who don't really sound much like this album (except maybe the chanting bit at the end of Warszaea) but who took their name from it.

I could imagine Always Crashing being done by Pulp, or Be My Wife being done by Blur, or even Madness.

Even the instrumental before the trippy stuff starts, A New Career, reminds me of the Housemartins, who I'd have thought would be a million miles away from Bowie, but there ya go.

I always thought Warszawa and Art Decade were the same song. They could be the same song, or different movements in the same song. I love this stuff. Generally I like the second half of the album better than the first. Weeping Wall sounds a bit like the Saucerful of Secrets Floyd era. And, as has been mentioned, Subterraneans is clearly from some movie that Bowie had going on in his head, but which never got made.

And Sound and Vision - what a fucking song. It sounds amazing in headphones. Its my new favourite Bowie song.

It would all make you wonder what was going on in Bowie's head at the time. Or what drugs he was doing to make all this stuff spew out of him the way it did. And I'd love to know more about who did what on this album. A lot of Eno's influence is obvious, but I'd love to know more about the dynamic between them.

Since I first heard this album 10 or so years ago I've always said it was my favourite Bowie album. Now I realise I didn't really do it justice in that I didn't listen to it nearly enough. I'm glad I did now.

Oh and I'm just imagining if this album came out today and was given to some newspaper reviewer to have a review ready by tomorrow. My absolute arse. I've spent a week with this and I'm still baffled. And to those who were claiming that a week is too long between albums on Thumped album club, I reckon we nearly needed a month with this one .

Overall its been a lot less contentious than the Smiths album, and thats reflected in the absence of any disagreement or argument in this thread. As it should be in the case of this wonderful album.
 

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