David Bowie - Low (1977) (1 Viewer)

prefuse

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I'm playing catch up.

Another one I included in my 25.

I think I first heard Low in the mid 90's. Being into Suede, there was never a review or interview which didn't mention David Bowie. So I started getting curious. I only really knew the hits. Any top 5 Bowie albums lists will always have Low & Hunky Dory in them. Both very different albums. Both great. I re-listened to it again. It is hard to separate the music from the mythology. The detached coldness & the allure of living some cool bohemian lifestyle in Berlin in the mid 70's. First off, I love George Murray's bass playing on side 1. The drums sound great, the snare especially sounds huge. It is a strange album for a "star" to release. But it's part of what made Bowie so interesting.

1 -Speed of Life
Great intro for the album. It does sound like it was slowed down. Love the drum sound.

2 -Breaking Glass
Wonky blues licks. The whole song sounds a bit unsteady, just held together. It's very short and sounds like a sketch, unfinished.

3 -What in the World
Love the drums intro & arcade sounds. Funky but angular. Throwaway but very cool. Demented outro guitar solo.

4 -Sound and Vision
The single. I love the bass playing. Great mysterious synth string line. The best vocal on the album so far.

5 -Always Crashing in the Same Car
This is my favourite "song" on Low. Love all the swirling, phasing sounds. Really nice guitar melodies all the way through. Great snare sound & I love the fade out swirl.............

6 -Be My Wife
Saloon piano, mockey cockney. The repeating piano riff makes the song. Really like this one.

7 -A New Career in a New Town
Love this. Really cool synths on the intro. This track is a strange mix of ideas. The harmonica for one, but it works. I would have prefered an electronic kick drum sound in the quiet parts.

8 -Warszawa
If I didn't know who this was I would guess, Tangerine Dream. It really resonates. Didn't Philip Glass do an orchestra version of this? The vocals are okay, I could live without that part.

9 -Art Decade
Oh yeah, Love this. Brooding. Very Germanic.

10 -Weeping Wall
Quiet avant-garde it must be said. I especially like the spooky section.

11 -Subterraneans
Love the intro, all the backwards shimmers. Again the vocal part, is okay but I would prefer it without vox.
 

prefuse

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This is a close as I'll get to being on the works or late review and the only opportunity to use words like "angular" and say "arguably" a lot.
 

travispickle

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I'm playing catch up.

Another one I included in my 25.

I think I first heard Low in the mid 90's. Being into Suede, there was never a review or interview which didn't mention David Bowie. So I started getting curious. I only really knew the hits. Any top 5 Bowie albums lists will always have Low & Hunky Dory in them. Both very different albums. Both great. I re-listened to it again. It is hard to separate the music from the mythology. The detached coldness & the allure of living some cool bohemian lifestyle in Berlin in the mid 70's. First off, I love George Murray's bass playing on side 1. The drums sound great, the snare especially sounds huge. It is a strange album for a "star" to release. But it's part of what made Bowie so interesting.

1 -Speed of Life
Great intro for the album. It does sound like it was slowed down. Love the drum sound.

2 -Breaking Glass
Wonky blues licks. The whole song sounds a bit unsteady, just held together. It's very short and sounds like a sketch, unfinished.

3 -What in the World
Love the drums intro & arcade sounds. Funky but angular. Throwaway but very cool. Demented outro guitar solo.

4 -Sound and Vision
The single. I love the bass playing. Great mysterious synth string line. The best vocal on the album so far.

5 -Always Crashing in the Same Car
This is my favourite "song" on Low. Love all the swirling, phasing sounds. Really nice guitar melodies all the way through. Great snare sound & I love the fade out swirl.............

6 -Be My Wife
Saloon piano, mockey cockney. The repeating piano riff makes the song. Really like this one.

7 -A New Career in a New Town
Love this. Really cool synths on the intro. This track is a strange mix of ideas. The harmonica for one, but it works. I would have prefered an electronic kick drum sound in the quiet parts.

8 -Warszawa
If I didn't know who this was I would guess, Tangerine Dream. It really resonates. Didn't Philip Glass do an orchestra version of this? The vocals are okay, I could live without that part.

9 -Art Decade
Oh yeah, Love this. Brooding. Very Germanic.

10 -Weeping Wall
Quiet avant-garde it must be said. I especially like the spooky section.

11 -Subterraneans
Love the intro, all the backwards shimmers. Again the vocal part, is okay but I would prefer it without vox.
This is what I'm loving about this thread - excellent analysis, great stuff.
Re: the harmonica on A New Career.....someone said elsewhere that harmonica is generally used as a vocal substitute; for me it's interesting to listen to that track with that in mind. It's a very emotive melody line.
Incidentally Bowie's working title for Low was "New Music Night and Day" - part of me wishes he'd used that title for an instrumental or other song, but then that sums up the attitude of this whole album and is part of what makes it so great, he comes up with a great title but thinks, "nah fuck it we won't use it"!!
 

dunderhead

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here we go again. purposely haven't looked at thread all week to be able to compare what other folks said after I post this. not that this is really detailed or anything.

there was an issue of Q magazine knocking around my house back in 97 celebrating bowie's 50th birthday. naturally they had a few lines for each of his albums up to that point with a star rating. pretty sure Low got a 3/5 and im pretty sure the description of the second side was enough for 15 year old me not to part with my money on such nonsense when theres a perfectly good ben folds five cd right next to it. anyways, today not a huge bowie fan in that I have never delved too far into his catalogue. basically I have and know and love Ziggy Stardust, Alladin Sane, MWSTW, Diamond Dogs and Hunky Dory. but it stops there and I blame Q fucking magazine for making a lasting impression on me and his albums inadvertently.

Ten years of listening to music later I'm getting into all that 70s german stuff and you hear over the years that side B of Low is strongly influenced by these guys especially cluster and neu! who I love and now my interest sparks again but I do nothing about it and make a stupid pact with myself to not listen to the album until I get a nice copy of the album for myself some day and listen to it for the first time on speakers properly. I had slowly built it up as a great piece of art that I was saving and up until this week I hadn't heard it. but I have now, 3 times, on fucking spotify.

It's a really good album. disassociate it with all of his other stuff, all the other music that influenced the record at the time and you're left with a very unique sounding, unpredictable album. in the best possible way. sound and vision is a good template for the unpredictability of whats going one. no verse chorus/set structure but really grabs you nonetheless. the other first five or six tunes not to the same degree but there is definitely an element of ' what the fuck is coming next'. Always Crashing In The Same Car even borrows a chord change from Skynyrd's Freebird, anyone else hearing that?

Is New Career In A New Town the beginning of side b? I hope it is. great tune to open a side. (a good close to a side also now that i think about it). Really enjoyed side B, lovely stuff. amazing to have 2 sides like that on the same record. Small bit of vocals are very welcome when they pop in briefly. the kraut influence and bit of steve reich is there to hear. But like e.g. cluster and neu! albums, there is always a small element of boredom that kicks in as much as I like them. boredom probably a bit strong of a word but for an album to bowl me over completely I need hooks and such. not knocking it by any means but when it comes to giving it a rating, a slight bit of boredom means marks are lost.

overall, a strong 4.4. round it down to 4. this is good shit. will be getting plenty more listens
 
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travispickle

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you hear over the years that side B of Low is strongly influenced by these guys especially cluster and neu!
Bowie originally wanted to record with Michael Rother and Neu as his backing band! Can you fucking imagine what that might have been like? Here's a snippet from a Perfect Sound Forever interview with Rother.

"PSF: I've also heard that David Bowie was interested in Neu! Did you get to meet or work with him?
David Bowie never made his enthusiasm for NEU! a secret, that really speaks for him, although I found it kind of odd, that he quoted our title "Hero" (which was one of his favourite tracks at the time, as he once explained in an interview) for his album Heroes. In 1977 Bowie asked if I was up to participate in his new album, which he recorded with Brian Eno in Berlin. Back then my first solo album Flammende Herzen had just been released and was a major success in Germany. We never ended up working together, one might speculate about the reasons. I once told Bowie and his manager that I could imagine me participating in a more experimental and silent music like on the B side of Low and less in a rock oriented project. I think the management and the record company wanted to see Bowie change to a rock music sound for commercial reasons"

Eno was already working with Cluster by this time, and Bowie was also heavily influenced by Eno's Discreet Music so all those elements fed into the eventual album.
 

prefuse

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I forgot to mention. I love the cover of Low. Its the texture of copper orange swirl.
 

old

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I've had a couple of attempts to listen to Bowie music on other people's recommendations, but never got more than a song or two in before having enough. After he died the wife had the hits on a lot in the house, and I discovered that I only actually liked one or two of them (Space Oddity for example), that he was all duck and no dinner, and that his music was infected with too much awful sax, so that didn't bode well for my Low experience.

On first listen I more or less hated all of this album, thought the bass player was a rampant egotist, and that the producer ought to have been shot. Here are some notes after listen #3:

I now really like this Speed of Life thing. It doesn't wear out its welcome, is nice and propulsive, bass player isn't too busy, production now seems quite exciting. Then come the songs that sound like out-takes from Ian Dury's New Boots and Panties with extra guitar wank. Fuck that shit. Sound and Vision is a relief, even though the high pitch multiple Bowies with ululating voices sound like someone's auntie. A high point.

Always Crashing the Same Car was my favourite on listen #2 last night, but it seems a bit dull today until it picks up momentum on the nice ascending final part. Then we're back to the Blockheads, but in a good way this time. I think I like Be My Wife, but that bass player needs to wind his neck in. New Career is grand. The harmonica bit is too obvious and it's twice as long as it needs to be. It's no Return of the Las Palmas 7, but burbles along pleasantly enough.

Side 2 then. Warzsawa is good and doomy, but quickly becomes boring, and then the awful singing comes in. Please end. Art Decade is mercifully shorter and retains my interest. I like the vibraphone and percussion in Weeping Wall, but then it becomes a confused mess, with more and more synthy bits added that do nothing of use. Maybe this was exciting in 1977, but it sounds tired now. Same with Subterraneans. The first couple of minutes evoke the doomed atmosphere of a slow-moving 70s space drama. And then there's some fucking prick with a saxophone ruining everything. It's Bowie. Ruining his own band. I won't be listening to side 2 again, but reserve the right to tap my toe to the toe-tappers on side 1, while skipping the guff.

Low quality. Keep off them drugs, 70s Bowie.
Score: Could do better. 2/5.
 
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nooleen

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i've given this a few more listens to see if i could get in on what everyone else is loving about it, but i've ended up liking it less and less
 

old

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I tried a fourth go of Side 1 but I couldn't hack it when not obliged to listen to it for TAC porpoises.

i've given this a few more listens to see if i could get in on what everyone else is loving about it, but i've ended up liking it less and less
 

nooleen

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i'm listening to the smiths one again now and it's sounding amazing

maybe i was just in a bad mood listening to bowie earlier
 

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