‘Hours…’ – Album Review

Hours

In 1999, David Bowie released the album ‘Hours…’ and it enjoyed mixed reviews, some critics calling it a masterpiece, others a lesser work from the music icon.

Is it one of Bowie’s best?

Let’s take a listen.

The first track on the album is also the first single to be released from it. “Thursday’s Child” has a pensive, moody vibe to it with a very 90’s beat underneath it all and choir-style backing vocals. It’s a song that’s both upbeat and downbeat somehow making it an intriguing listen, even if it’s not that catchy. It is followed by “Something In The Air”, an initially slower track which builds up confidently to a rockier and, in fact, very cool bridge and chorus. Great guitar work throughout this one, I should point out.

“Survive” is next and it’s a bit like a mix of the first two songs in that it’s both nostalgic and hopeful but also has an effective build up and a terrific guitar sound. It’s an atmospheric tune which aims to get a particular feeling, mood across and it does that perfectly. It’s the third single to be released from the album and its video sees a long-haired Bowie float around a kitchen.

As you do.

The following song is “If I’m Dreaming My Life” and Bowie goes down low vocally for this one. It’s a moody, kickass track which a growing and shrinking rhythm, poetic lyrics, a fab melody and a fantastic chorus. One of the best tracks on the album, definitely. Why this song wasn’t a single I’ll never know.

Speaking of singles, “Seven” was the last song to be released as one from ‘Hours…’. Written by both Bowie and Reeves Gabrels, it’s a beautiful, mostly acoustic track with a perfect build-up, an irresistible melody, a catchy hook and, again, a terrific guitar. My personal favourite on the album. Screeching guitars open the more retro “What’s Really Happening?”, a killer rock tune that feels like a classic from the very first note. Again, this is a single if I ever heard one.

The album picks up even more with really fun single “The Pretty Things Are going To Hell”, another rockier track with heavier guitars and a chorus designed for maximum live effect. This is probably the closest you’ll hear David Bowie get to doing metal so it’s pretty awesome, as you can imagine. Expect more excellent work from guitarist/co-writer Reeves Gabrels.

The next track is “New Angels Of Promise” and it’s another cracking, very Bowie tune with a cool chorus, some simply brilliant vocal work and a grungy, punky vibe throughout. This feels more like an early 90’s/late 80’s effort than a song recorded in 1999 and that’s a good thing for sure. “Brilliant Adventure” is more of a transitional ambient track and it has a very Eastern, Middle Eastern even, feel. It’s short but very pretty.

Finally, we have “The Dreamers”, which opens with short booms, then gives way to a faster rhythm and then a more disjointed, dancier one. It’s a retro-sounding, experimental track which tries a whole bunch of different things, all of which somehow work. It’s typical Bowie throwing something unpredictable at you to end the album on a high, creative note.

It’s surprising that critics were not all that emphatic about ‘Hours…’ as it’s easily one of David Bowie’s most underrated efforts. For such a short album, you’ve got a lot of great, memorable stuff in there. From the more atmospheric, slower tracks to the rockier ones, it’s pretty much all good: the singles prove themselves to be worthy and even the non-singles sound like they could have enjoyed a comfortable release of their own.

‘Hours…’ is an under-appreciated gem from Mr Bowie and it gets 4 Ziggies out of 5 from us.

Ziggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAsk

Legal Tender – Song Of The Day

Whammy

The first single to be released from The B-52’s 1983 album Whammy!, “Legal Tender” was a hit for the band with Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson sharing vocals on it. The New Wave synth-led track was as fun as you’d expect from those guys and so was the colourful video. It’s, quite simply, irresistible.

Heathen – Album Review

Heathen

Released in 2002, Heathen was seen as something of a comeback for David Bowie, at least in terms of how well it did in the charts. It not only enjoyed a notable success in sales but with critics also.

Heathen opens with “Sunday”, an atmospheric track which leads you into the album slowly, with a downbeat vibe. It kicks off just as the song ends, leaving you wanting more. Luckily, it is quickly followed by a very cool cover of The Pixies‘ “Cactus”, written by frontman Black Francis. Short and sweet is the best way to describe this one: a delicious, rock n’ roll appetiser for what follows.

“Slip Away” is next and it’s a jazzy, nostalgic tune with Mr Bowie in full crooner mode. There’s a soothing 60’s feel to the track in general but the beautiful chorus is pure David Bowie and the whole thing you could see at home in a full-on musical. One of the prettiest tracks on the album, without a doubt. Pete Townshend accompanies on guitar in the following track “Slow Burn” which was the first single to be released from Heathen. It’s also the track which earned Bowie a Grammy award nomination for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance and rightly so: “Slow Burn” is a fantastic song with fab vocals, guitar work and one hell of a chorus.

“Afraid” is next and it looks set to be the rockiest track yet with its fast-paced riffs when the chorus kicks in and, surprisingly, slows things down little by little adding an unexpected dose of regret and melancholy to the song. “I’ve Been Waiting For You”, a cover of an old Neil Young song follows and that one has Dave Grohl on guitar, delivering some welcome screeching backing twangs. It’s a terrific cover with a grungy tone, and you’d never guess the song originally dates back to 1968.

The seventh track is “I Would Be Your Slave” and, like the opening song, it’s a more atmospheric effort though this one has a sadder, more desperate feel to it. The non-intrusive synth backing (and guitar) do a good job at enhancing Bowie’s vocals, giving the beautiful lyrics even more weight. A cover of an old psychobilly song is next and proves that you just can’t go wrong with a song entitled “I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spacecraft”. Originally by Legendary Stardust Cowboy, the song is part-jazz, part-soul, a mish-mash of different styles which works surprisingly well, especially when the bridge kicks in.

“5:15 The Angels Have Gone” opens small with subdued backing choirs, a few guitar picks and lonely beats. There’s a bit of a surreal quality to the song which changes completely whenever the chorus pops up. It’s a slightly bizarre one but the verses are so pretty they make it well worth it. The second single to be released from Heathen, “Everyone Says Hi”, is arguably the lightest track on the album. It’s a well put-together song and it has some great moments, especially as it builds-up towards the end.

Next we have “A Better Future”, which opens with a bouncy beat which cleverly contrasts to the deadpan vocals Bowie delivers. It’s another track that’s hard to pin down since it’s constantly evolving and doesn’t have a conventional chorus but it’s definitely effective as a transition to the album’s final song, which happens to be the title track. David Bowie has a tendency to end his albums on more of a question mark but “Heathen (The Rays)” is actually more accessible, with its 50’s-style beat and upbeat vocals.

What to make of Heathen, then?

It’s easy to see why the album did as well as it did: there are some beautiful tracks on here and some kickass covers, Bowie himself is as good as ever and his band is extremely talented and versatile. Having said that, Heathen is a uniformly odd little creation. While it has its fun moments, it’s mostly quite moody and distracted, always going places you wouldn’t expect it to, as if it were constantly challenging you or Bowie himself was conveying his thought process when writing those tracks as they are happening, somehow. All in all, this is probably not everyone’s favourite album of his but it’s still a must since its greatest tracks are not only great, they’re damn great.

That’s 3 Ziggies out of 5 for Heathen, an album Bowie fans will no doubt have a great time discovering or re-discovering.

Ziggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAsk

DomingoArt – New Artist Spotlight

DomingoArt

Borea ‘Domingo’ Domenico is a very talented artist from Italy whose cool drawings and paintings can be found under the banner of DomingoArt all over the best parts of the Internet.

The subject matter he takes on is always rock & roll from music icons to movie characters and memes. Sometimes he’s going with a realistic depiction, other times he’s primarily capturing the energy or the spirit of a particular individual and their work.

Here are two beautiful David Bowie pieces which pinpoint different personas of the music god who sadly left us very recently:

Bowie Bowie2You can tell that DomingoArt has an affinity towards his subjects and enjoys art full stop. He’s very prolific, delivering one stylish, funky piece after another and, if you like rock music, it’s impossible to not find something you like.

On the artist’s DomingoArtStore, you can find all sorts of goodies, not just paintings and drawings but T-shirts as well. Custom orders are totally doable and the store is very accommodating.

DomingoTShirt

That’s just an example of what you can expect when you’re checking out the store, looking for badass Joe Strummer T-shirts.

DomingoArt is also present on Twitter @Domingo_Art, on Instagram @domingoart_official, Facebook and Tumblr where you can see his progress when he’s taking on a new piece as he posts updates regularly.

Here’s an in-progress Freddie Mercury drawing:

Freddie

Definitely check out DomingoArt, he’s a fab artist to look out for and a really nice guy. Plus you can commission pencil drawings from him if you want so if you’ve got a gift you’re planning or something obscure you want for yourself, this guy’s got ya covered.

Reality – Album Review

Reality

Released back in 2003, Reality was David Bowie‘s 23rd album and it was greeted with average interest, its release feeling more underground and indie than most of the artist’s other albums.

Had people known this would be Bowie’s last album before a 10 year gap, would they have appreciated it more? Or was this really a mild effort?

Reality certainly doesn’t open half-assed with a very cool opening track, and first single, as “New Killer Star” brings with it a simple half-grungy half-country riff and moody vocals (and backing vocals) to create a fun track which builds expertly and goes creative places. There’s also an underlying sinister feel about this one you might not catch upon a first listen. The second track, “Pablo Picasso” is also the second single to be released from Reality and it’s another great tune though it’s a cover from Jonathan Richman (The Modern Lovers). It’s got a slightly mad, circusey synth hook, great lyrics and a very energetic Bowie going for it.

Though you might remember “Never Get Old” from the amusing Vittel ad David Bowie took part in to promote the album (“New Killer Star” later replaced the song) back in the day, it’s also actually a decent track on its own with a funky hook and a very cool chorus. The next track is altogether very different: somber, desperate, heartbreaking. “The Loneliest Guy” is an overlooked gem from this album which won’t exactly please those looking to party but play that song on a grey day and you’ll simply get it. A beautifully dark ode to melancholy.

Things pick up quickly as “Looking For Water” offers confident vocals, a thumping beat and a fantastic bass line all the way through. It’s an energetic, straight-forward yet irresistible track and one of the most fun on the album. Song number 6 is “She’ll Drive The Big Car”, which opens with a short harmonica solo before leading us to some poetic verses that make you wonder where the song will go from there but, luckily, we are then given a really effective chorus which is moodily underlined by the backing vocals. The song never takes off too much but it’s worth sticking around for that chorus.

My personal favourite track on the album is “Days”, a ballad and probably the softest song on Reality. It’s a heartfelt, beautiful little tune with a pretty melody which only gets prettier as it goes on. As soon as the beat finally kicks in, you know you’re in for something special as Bowie’s lyrics and vocals coupled with everything else about this song makes it one bittersweet treat: all of it just works. “Fall Dogs Bomb The Moon” is next and, while its lyrics make for a solid critique on corporate/military power, the subject matter could have been taken on with more gusto. As it stands, it works thanks to a catchy chorus but lacks a certain energy and anger.

The next track, “Try Some, Buy Some”, was written by George Harrison and was originally sung by Ronnie Spector but it somehow makes a lot of sense as a David Bowie track, the artist making the song his own and clearly loving singing it. It’s got that early 70’s feel but also a welcome modern touch which helps keep it fresh. The title track “Reality” then steps up and brings a faster-pace with it as well as some defiant laughing which punctuates the irony expressed through the lyrics playfully. It’s not the most memorable song on the album but it’s got enough attitude and great vocal work to keep anyone entertained.

“Bring Me The Disco King” is the final song on the album and, against all odds, it’s certainly not a disco song. In fact, this is an old track Bowie reworked several times before finally keeping things raw and going for a dark, jazzy, piano-led vibe. It’s a bittersweet, beautiful tune which grows slowly and, if you go for the Danny Lohner (Nine Inch Nails) mix, you’ll hear a rockier version which works even better somehow, though in a different way. It doesn’t exactly end the album with a bang, instead quietly turning off the lights and leaving you in a reflective mood.

What to make of Reality, then?

As we all know, bad David Bowie albums are hard to find and this one is no bad album at all. Calling it “mild” is stupidly harsh though one could see how a critic expecting something heavier would be disappointed. Reality goes for gritty yet polished simplicity, David Bowie delivering one great, unpretentious, honest track after the other with the help of a very versatile band which helps make each song as good as it can possibly be. There are stand out tracks but also a couple of more forgettable ones but even those are competently put together and worth a listen.

All in all, maybe not David Bowie’s very best but it’s an album I never tire of listening to and it gets a high 3 Ziggies out of 5 from us.

Ziggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAsk

You’ll probably find yourself revisiting that one every so often.

New Killer Star – Song Of The Day

New Killer Star

David Bowie opened his 2003 album Reality with this cool track which was also the first single to be released from it. A simple riff leads “New Killer Star”, which builds and builds before delivering one hell of a catchy bridge and chorus combo. It’s one of the best tracks on the album and the video is one trippy ride to say the least.

Review of the album coming soon.

The Next Day – Album Review

The Next Day

In 2013, David Bowie finally returned with a brand new album which delivered lots of new material, something the rock legend had not done in 10 years. The album was The Next Day and it was quickly critically acclaimed, the man proving once again that he could still bring the goods.

With its minimalist, subversive cover which used Heroes‘ classic album cover as a background, the album’s main message seemed to be: keep the past in mind but also paint over it to create something fresh and new.

Would this mean a complete reinvention from the artist or merely a cheeky update?

Let’s take a listen.

The album opens with title track “The Next Day” which was accompanied by one haunting (and bloody) religion-themed video starring Marion Cotillard and Gary Oldman. The song itself is a worthy opener as it’s fun, rocky and balances both a retro and modern vibe, thereby setting the tone for the rest of the album. One of my personal favourite tracks on The Next Day is “Dirty Boys”, a sleazy, bluesy gem which sounds like a Bowie/Tom Waits collaboration with its disjointed guitar and sax backing, the latter offering a pretty cool solo near the end.

The next track, “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”, also had a music video attached to it and that one was more of a short film. It was directed by Floria Sigismondi and followed David Bowie and Tilda Swinton as a jaded married couple haunted by visions of their past selves as those versions of them start clashing and merging. It’s a surreal, experimental watch and a worthy one, for sure. The song itself is reflective, nostalgic and very Bowie.

“Love Is Lost” is next and, led by a thumping beat, it’s another slightly dark but very cool effort: one significant key change halfway through even brings to mind “Space Oddity” so, once again, you’ve got that retro vibe spliced into a definitely modern sound. One of the best on the album. The Steve Reich mix of this one is also worth checking out.

“Where Are We Now?” was the first single released from the album and, surprisingly, it’s one of the slowest. That said, it’s also one of the prettiest and most moving tracks on there as Bowie croons his way through a rather heartbreaking hymn to time and moving on. If that one’s perhaps too depressing for ya, “Valentine’s Day” is a much more upbeat track and it comes right after though if you follow the lyrics closely you’ll notice it’s in fact about quite a dark subject matter which gives it an unexpected sinister edge.

“If You Can See Me” is a much more erratic and experimental track with its scattered beat, dramatic synth and grand voice work by Bowie. This one won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s certainly refreshing to see the man still come up with something so challenging and bold after all these years. Track number 8 is “I’d Rather Be High” and it’s a terrific anthem to the jaded. It’s a fun song with Bowie bringing a new wave feel to it with those higher-pitched tones of his and that deadpan chorus.

“Boss Of Me” was co-written by Gerry Leonard and it’s an inventive, constantly growing track packed full of subtle little surprises. Great guitar, vocals, sax, lyrics, it’s just one heck of a good track, though it’s tough to pin down since it goes very different directions throughout. Our favourite Starman then looks back to the Heavens for “Dancing Out In Space”, another creative track with a dancier vibe. Expect a very catchy hook and some wacky synth work.

“How Does The Grass Grow?” is also quite dancy at times but the main thing about this one is just how well put-together it is overall. Rocking melody, super catchy bridge with a bit of a Link Wray feel, fab guitar solos, unexpected key changes which take the track in whole new directions: this is Bowie at his most creative. The song was co-written by Jerry Lordan. “(You Will) Set The World On Fire” is, quite simply, kickass. The grungy guitar riffs, Bowie’s moody vocals, the upbeat chorus, it’s an overlooked gem and one of the artist’s best in a while.

The next song is “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die” and it’s a poetic effort with an old-fashioned 50’s vibe but also some gospel in there. It’s a heartfelt track which grows beautifully and it’s one of the most moving on the album. The final song on The Next Day is “Heat”, a dark, jazzy track which ends the album on a downbeat note as Bowie once again throws something avant-garde at you right at the end just to keep you guessing.

What can I say about The Next Day except that it completely deserves the positive response it initially received.

It’s easy to underestimate this one, especially if you’ve only heard one single released from it, but if you take the time and listen to the whole thing you’ll realise pretty quickly just how good it is. Not that David Bowie even needed a comeback but this album effortlessly cemented the fact that the man was just an artist through and through, and a hugely talented one at that. The Next Day is a burst of creativity from the cover art to the lyrics and each and every song as a whole. There are some fantastic tracks on there which feel timeless as Bowie skilfully merges old and new sounds to create something truly unique.

That’s 4 Ziggies out of 5 for The Next Day, a thrilling late album most classic rockers only dream of making nowadays.

Ziggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAsk