- Jun 21, 2006
Brilliant post Scutter.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.
I agree with your earlier post about not knowing how to articulate how I feel about this record. I know this album very very well, but I have struggled too with trying to critique it for the album club, which I haven't.
But your post here speaks for me too, and I've thoroughly enjoyed reading other people's views on it (and re-evaluated my own views on it too) - some who have never heard it before (lucky bastards), some who have but don't know it that well, others, like me, who know it well but somehow hear it differently now through others' views on it.
I've returned to it a lot over the past week and still feel it's a superb album, which does indeed get better with each listen. And I've been listening to it since I was about 13.
I hope the Album Club continues in this vein; the discussion has been terrific, as has the extra information/videos etc, that posters have stuck up, which have added to my knowledge and enjoyment of this record.
it's wonderful to hear exciting new (or old) music that we haven't had much exposure to before - I'm hoping that I will land on an album that will excite/baffle me as much as Low seems to have done on most posters so far.
I'm looking forward to the next one!!!