Reality – David Bowie
Columbia Records 9056
At this point in David Bowie's career, it's probably too much to expect
him to provide the type of adventurous musicmaking that distinguished his
career. Of course, such a statement could lead to a "rock is dead" diatribe,
that can be for some other time. In his case, those significant moments
numerous times throughout his many guises in the '70s and '80s, which helped
bring glam, soul and even krautrock to the mainstream.
In the '90s when the Thin White Duke embraced electronic beats to enhance
his material, he sounded more desperate than cutting edge. Settling back to
just writing good material with nothing more to prove than having a strong
group of musicians performing it seemed like the best formula to
On last year's "Heathen," he reunited with producer Tony Visconti to make
a stripped down rock album. It contained echoes of his glam, soul and folk
days without mimicking any of them. The solid results begged for a return
which brings us to the recently released Reality.
And while much of the album's 11 tracks fall within the same musical
roadmap of the previous album, Bowie's return trip does not give one d vu
some of the numbers on "Heathen" did. Instead, it's a welcome return.
Stylistically, the glam overtones are diluted in favor of something a little
to his Let’s Dance era with less of the pronounced funk. The mood on
this album has a typically cool and distant atmosphere that's smooth but
Lyrically, there are several nods to mortality ("Never Get Old" and title
track), while impending doom pops up here and there. There's also the sense
of claustrophobia and urban paranoia creeping around (again, "Never Get Old"
and the title track as well as "The Loneliest Guy").
Three tunes act as the only negatives on Reality — two of them are
covers, while the third suffers from sequencing. The Modern Lovers' "Pablo
Picasso" and George Harrison's "Try Some, Buy Some" may be alright if Bowie
sequel to his all-covers album "Pin Ups," but they just don't fit in here.
"Bring Me the Disco King" pales not only by its title reference but also it
arrives right after the frantic (and shoulda been album closer) title track.
What does make the rest of Reality work? It sounds like a "band"
record; the impression of several people working out a number in a room who
grown together and incorporate a certain sympatico that's appropriate for
the lifeblood of a song. Leading them in this endeavor are two longtime
collaborators — guitarist Earl Slick and Visconti who co-produced the album
well as added instrumentation.
It's particularly worth noting the contributions by Visconti who has been
working off and on with Bowie over the past 30-plus years, and usually with
good results. It seems as if he brings out a no-frills songwriting approach
that's accented by the tweaks in Bowie's creative personality. Whatever it
spins gold on Reality. And in a music landscape that caters to
it's a nice place to escape.
To quote from one of the songs, "I've been right and I've been wrong/Now
I'm back where I started from."