Earthling – Album Review

Earthling

David Bowie released the album Earthling back in 1997 and, although it wasn’t too big of a hit in terms of sales, it was critically well received.

Let’s see if it’s dated well.

The opening song is “Little Wonder” and it was the second single to be released from the album. In fact, it did better than any of the songs on Earthling reaching number 14 in the charts. The track kicks off with a disjointed garage beat which comes and goes. The whole thing is best described as playful experimental Brit Pop with a catchy hook buried in a sea of conflicting rhythms and Snow White references. It is followed by “Looking For Satellites”, which also has a clubby vibe and sounds a bit like something Blur and Oasis would have cooked up together if they had gotten along.

“Battle For Britain (The Letter)” is next and you can expect more of that garage beat and some grungy guitar work from Reeves Gabrels. It’s another track which purposely goes all over the place, even jumping headfirst into random piano solos near the end. Clearly Bowie was having fun playing around with remixes in this album.

“Seven Years In Tibet” is a slower track and it’s also the last one to be released as a single. There’s a regular core beat to the song with increasingly elaborate effects and instruments backing it. The chorus is simply fantastic with the guitar kicking in and turning the song into a rocky anthem. You get the feeling that the band TV On The Radio were influenced greatly by this one.

“Dead Man Walking” is another erratic dancy single you could probably find in quite a few clubs in the late 90’s but this one has a much more Bowie vibe, at least in terms of melody. It was used in the film The Saint and includes a guitar riff once used in Supermen which was taught to Bowie by Jimmy Page. Far prefer the terrific acoustic version to this one, personally.

“Telling Lies” opens with whispers floating over a repeating garage beat. It’s a very layered track as Bowie accuses using the song’s title both in real time and in slow-mo and the whole thing speeds up and slows down at unexpected times. The chorus is the most accessible part of this one, which is another experimental exercise in controlled messiness. As is its follow-up “The Last Thing You Should Do”, which also goes all over the place. At this point, the album has become basically impenetrable and it couldn’t care less: it’s having too good a time.

“I’m Afraid Of Americans” is much more involving in that it’s got a more interesting rhythm to hang onto and the hook kicks in early. The track was co-written by Brian Eno and it’s surprising it wasn’t released as a single since it’s got loads of attitude and a raw energy to it which would have played well on the radio despite its not-so-pro-US lyrics.

“Law (Earthlings On Fire)” is the final track on the album and it’s a dancy one with distorted voices, melodies popping in and out and a purely electronic structure. It’s a far more enjoyable clubby tune than some of the others on Earthling as it keeps throwing musically interesting little bits and bobs throughout.

What to make of Earthling, then?

Here’s one album which should divide David Bowie fans completely. Earthling really is the artist going for something radically different, tackling new remixing techniques and jumping into a Brit Pop techno vibe completely. The good news is this makes for some truly wacky songs full of creativity, the bad news is it’s a little too hard to pierce through the wall of eclectic beats and distortions to enjoy Earthling as an album rather than just a curious piece of late 90’s frenzy. Those who enjoy club music should have a ball with this one but others will probably be turned off by the album early on.

That’s only 2 Ziggies out of 5 for Earthling, mostly because it just doesn’t sound quite Bowie enough making it a much less likeable outing than any of its successors.

Still cool to see the man tackle yet another musical style altogether and keeping up with the times, though. Plus the cover art for the album is one of my personal favourites.

Ziggy MAskZiggy MAsk

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Crazy Clown Time – Album Review

Crazy Clown Time

After delivering some of the most unique and bizarre films of the past 20+ years, director David Lynch then decided to partake in some musical projects for a while. In 2011, he released his debut album Crazy Clown Time and he would follow it up two years later with The Big Dream.

Was this career jump a wise, worthy choice or more of a Kevin Costner singing country songs type of deal?

After all, while David Lynch’s voice is always a delight (see Twin Peaks for some rather loud examples), it doesn’t exactly strike as the obvious singing voice so let’s see how that turned out.

The opening song, “Pinky’s Dream”, buries the lead by not revealing singing Lynch and instead having Karen O from The Yeah Yeah Yeahs sing the tune. And what a tune it is! About as Lynchian as it gets, this is a fast-paced, dark, moody, driving song with some crafty reverbs and sound effects, bringing up images of a frantic, surreal highway chase. It’s, quite simply, a brilliant track and the perfect way to start the album.

Surprisingly, “Good Day Today”, goes for something completely different: a club-friendly remix of what sounds like some Angelo Badalamenti leftover sounds from his classic Twin Peaks score with an auto-tuned Lynch singing over a bouncy beat which includes the odd gunshot. There’s an upbeat but also desperate feel to this one and it is about as wacky as the above description suggests.

“So Glad” is a slower, somewhat more mean-spirited track which somehow works really well, Lynch’s voice blending in perfectly with the regular drum beat and the occasional guitar twangs. It’s one of those many songs on the album you find yourself quickly hypnotized by, wanting to know how it builds and what it builds up to. “Noah’s Ark” is next and sees David Lynch whispering about a “dark night” over sounds of a record skipping and repeating, plus the usual moody backing. Again, it shouldn’t work and yet it’s strangely compelling.

The next track, “Football Game”, is more playful as Lynch amusingly mumbles about going to a football game with a southern twang and what has to be a bag of hazelnuts in his mouth as an old-fashioned reverbed guitar rocks out throughout. “I Know” is in the same vein as “So Glad” and is just as atmospheric if maybe a little too similar in tone and feel. As for “Strange And Unproductive Thinking”, it can only be described as Lynch’s musical homage to Transcendental Meditation as the man talks, or rather echoes, about the subconscious and superconscious over a quietly booming beat.

“The Night Bell With Lightning” is a bluesier track the likes of Quentin Tarantino wouldn’t spit at, I’m sure. Lynch’s band showing off how well they’ve captured the director’s style in a slow yet cool instrumental tune. It is followed by one of this album’s highlights: “Stone’s Gone Up”. Like “Pinky’s Dream”, this is a ridiculously moody, fun track but, this time, David Lynch is on singing duties and he does a great job, nailing a not-super-easy to sing chorus and the more talky verses.

And now we come to “Crazy Clown Time”, the title track. Armed with one nutty video to say the least, it’s quite probably the wackiest song on the album but it’s also one of the best and most memorable. Lynch describes an out-of-control party in a kid’s voice, with all the naivety of a child, and the result is hilarious, hypnotic and… just so good. The music itself is, of course, also terrific.

Crazy clown time indeed!

Easily the best 7 minutes you’ll spend with your shirt off.

“These Are My Friends” is a more chilled-out track, a ballad almost, in which Lynch describes a bunch of stuff he has including a truck and “two good ears” before describing what his friends have: bluebirds, dogs and yellow baskets, mostly. It’s a good song with a silly sense of humour and, a lot like “Crazy Clown Time”, it’s pretty irresistible. “Speed Roadster” is the 12th song and Lynch tries to speak to someone on the phone in this one. Sounds a bit like he improvised the track as he went, which isn’t so far-fetched when you know the man’s mostly out-there work. The swearing throughout is entertaining but the song doesn’t stand-out as much as the others, unfortunately.

The next track, “Movin’ On”, has a similar beat as its predecessor but Lynch’s voice is higher pitched. Ultimately it has some nice melodic moments here and there but it’s another not-too memorable effort. The final song “She Rise Up”, is reminiscent of “Good Day Today” in that similar effects affect Lynch’s voice but this is a much darker tune which builds up slowly. It’s not bad and is actually quite pretty at times but a faster song would have really hit the spot at that point.

So what to make of the film director’s debut album?

Against all odds, it’s a winner! Lynch and his band capture the mood and humour of his films brilliantly and you can definitely picture scenes from Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire and others as you listen. There are a handful of clear hits here everyone should have a good time with but really, this is one for fans who will likely love every minute of this strange, inspired little adventure.

“Crazy Clown Time” gets 4 Shady Dudes out of 5 from us.

I liked it so much I SPIT!

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IOU – Song Of The Day

IOU

Thinking about what would be the quintessential Metric song, a few came to mind but the strongest contender would probably be the opening track from the band’s Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? album “IOU”. The song is like a mini best of with the band showing off a bit of rock, a bit of punk, a bit of electro, a lot of versatility over the space of a single song and it all somehow works pretty seamlessly. It’s a fast-paced, fun tune but it’s also not without it’s softer, more chilled-out moments.

Nantes – Song Of The Day

Nantes

Beirut‘s 2007 album The Flying Club Cup was pretty perfect and the second track on the album, “Nantes”, was not only one of the best on it but remains one of Beirut’s most recognisable tracks. The usual Balkan folk-influenced vibe is there along with a whole bunch of accordions, trumpets and other relatively exotic instruments. The music video, which sees maestro Zach Condon walk down a flight of stairs behind the rest of the band is also particularly inspired.

Final Solution – Song Of The Day

Peter Murphy

Seeing as this is Friday and on Fridays we deal primarily with cover songs here at Feedback Theatre, I thought our Song Of The Day for today should be a cover so here we have “Final Solution” not by the great Pere Ubu, who first recorded the song back in 1976, but by the great Peter Murphy, who made it his own later on.

Get Off – Song Of The Day

Get Off

From The Dandy Warhols‘ third album Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia comes the single “Get Off”, a cool-as-f*** track that’s both an ode to mindless debauchery and a drug-themed refrain about addiction and the obsession that comes with it. While the song may have been overshadowed by the unexpected success of “Bohemian Like You” back in the day, it’s definitely one of the best and most memorable tracks on that album.

Games Without Frontiers – Song Of The Day

Games Without FrontiersWIth Kate Bush on backing vocals singing in French and the lyric “Willie is happy again” in there, it’s hard to not like Peter Gabriel‘s “Games Without Frontiers”. The moody track was Gabriel’s most successful single in the UK back in 1980 when it was released and it helped make an already pretty strong album even more significant and confirm the validity of the artist’s Genesis-free solo career.