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viernes, 27 de mayo de 2016

David Bowie - Outside (1995)

David Bowie y Brian Eno. Bowie, Eno y Pedro Rock nos acerca uno de los discos-leyenda de David Bowie, un trabajo de carácter ambicioso, quizás se pueda decir que es su trabajo más interesante y ambicioso. Disfrútenlo en este fin de semana que parece vendrá lluvioso.

Artista: David Bowie
Álbum: Outside
Año: 1995
Género: Art-Rock / Rock Alternativo
Nacionalidad: Inglaterra


Lista de Temas:
01. Leon Takes Us Outside
02. Outside
03. The Hearts Filthy Lesson
04. A Small Plot of Land
05. Segue - Baby Grace (a horrid cassette)
06. Hallo Spaceboy
07. The Motel
08. I Have Not Been To Oxford Town
09. No Control
10. Segue - Algeria Touchshriek
11. The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (As Beauty)
12. Segue - Ramona A. Stone_I Am With Name
13. Wishful Beginnings
14. We Prick You
15. Segue - Nathan Adler
16. I'm Deranged
17. Thru' These Architects Eyes
18. Segue - Nathan Adler
19. Strangers When We Meet

Alineación:
- David Bowie / vocals, guitar, keyboards, saxophone
- Brian Eno / synthesizer, treatments
- Reeves Gabrels / guitar
- Erdal Kızılçay / bass, keyboards
- Mike Garson / grand piano
- Sterling Campbell / drums
Carlos Alomar / rhythm guitar
Joey Baron / drums
Yossi Fine / bass
Tom Frish / guitar
Kevin Armstrong / guitar



Tiene lo que todo buen álbum de David Bowie debería tener: una temática interesante, un avance en la música, un acercamiento de David Bowie en un nuevo mundo musical, yendo de la mano del cambio, y una instrumentación excelente (el piano de Garson, la guitarra de Alomar, la voz de Bowie). Un disco que si lo situamos en el tiempo, es sumamente vanguardista e increíble para el momento, y marcó parte de la estética oscura que vendría luego, siendo una especie de "ópera rock" épica. La historia detrás de este disco es que un investigador privado está tratando de atrapar a un asesino en serie que está destripando la gente y tratando de hacer una declaración artística a través de él. Él va a reunir un grupo de personas extrañas en sus aventuras, que son justamente las voces entre las canciones. La creatividad que ésto exige hace que que este proyecto sea muy diferente de un disco de la mayoría de bandas de rock alternativo de 1995, salvo Tool ("Ænima" salió en 1996) y algún otro trabajo bien artístico pero muy alejado geográficamente.

Outside (estilizado como 1.Outside) es un álbum conceptual lanzado el 26 de septiembre de 1995 por David Bowie, a través de Virgin Records, y es el decimonoveno álbum de estudio de Bowie. El álbum nació de la reunión de Bowie con Brian Eno, con quién Bowie había trabajado en su aclamada Trilogía de Berlín en los setenta. Subtitulado como "El asesinato ritual artístico de Baby Grace Blue: un Hiperciclo de drama gótico no-lineal", Outside se centra en los personajes de un mundo distópico en la víspera del siglo veintiuno. El álbum puso a Bowie de vuelta en la escena mainstream de la música rock con sus sencillos "The Hearts Filthy Lesson", "Strangers When We Meet", y "Hallo Spaceboy" (remezclado por los Pet Shop Boys).
Bowie había reconectado con Biano Eno en su boda con Iman Abdulmajid en 1992. Bowie y Eno tocaron cada uno su música en la recepción de la boda, encantados por el ambiente de las parejas en la pista de baile.A ese punto, Bowie supo que "ambos estábamos interesados en mordisquear en la periferia del mainstream, en lugar de entrar de lleno. Nos enviamos largos manifiestos sobre lo que faltaba en la música y en lo que nosotros deberíamos estar haciendo. Decidimos realmente experimentar e ir al estudio sin siquiera una sola idea."2 Bowie y Eno visitaron el hospital psiquiátrico Gugging cerca de Viena, Austria alrededor de 1994, y entrevistaron y fotografiaron a sus pacientes quienes fueron famosos por su "Arte Outsider." Bowie y Eno consiguieron llevarse algo de ese arte consigo al estudio, ya que trabajaron juntos en marzo de 1994, surgiendo una pieza de tres horas que era sobre todo de diálogo. A finales de 1994, la Revista Q le pidió a Bowie que escribiera un diario por diez días(para publicarlo posteriormente en la revista), pero Bowie, temeroso de que su diario fuera aburrido ("...yendo al estudio, volviendo a casa, yendo a dormir"), escribió en su lugar un diario de uno de sus personajes ficticios (Nathan Adler) a raíz de su improvisación anterior con Eno. Bowie dijo "en lugar de 10 días, ¡se convirtieron en 15 años de su vida!". Esta se convirtió en la base para la historia de Outside.3
Como resultado, a diferencia de algunos de los anteriores discos de Bowie,4 ni una sola canción fue escrita antes de que la banda entrara en el estudio. En su lugar, Bowie escribió muchas canciones junto a la banda en sesiones improvisadas. Bowie y Eno también continuaron con las técnicas de composición experimentales que habían comenzado a usar durante la Trilogía de Berlín. En 1995, mientras hablaba a la prensa sobre el álbum, Bowie declaró que:
Lo que Brian hizo, que era muy útil, es que proporcionaba a todos con flash cards al principio del día. En cada una, un personaje era descrito, como "Eres un miembro descontento de una banda de rock de Sudáfrica. Toca las notas que fueron reprimidas." ...Porque eso marcaba la pauta para el día, y la música tomaría todas aquellas áreas oscuras. Y sería muy raro caer en el cliché.
Los "recortes aleatorios" de la historia de Adler que son parte de las canciones y las notas del álbum fueron escritas por Bowie, quién las escribió en su Mac y luego las transformó por medio de un programa llamado Verbasizer. El Verbasizer fue creado por el cofundador de Gracenote Ty Roberts y Bowie mismo.6 El software cortaría y reordenaría las palabras de Bowie electrónicamente, justo como él lo hubiera hecho con papel, tijeras y pegamento en los setenta. Entonces, Bowie miraría la nueva letra mientras la banda tocara una canción y decidiría "si fuese a cantar, a hacer un diálogo, o un personaje. Podría improvisar con la banda, bastante rápido, yendo de una línea a otra, viendo que funcionaba." Bowie afirmó que tomó alrededor de tres horas y media usando este método, para crear "virtualmente la génesis entera" del álbum Outside.
Con casi 75 minutos, el álbum es uno de los más largos de Bowie. Cuando fue lanzado, Bowie supo que podía ser un problema. El dijo, "tan pronto como lo lancé, pensé, es demasiado largo. Va a morir. Hay mucho en él. Realmente debí haber hecho dos CD
Wikipedia

El álbum se despliega en una gran cantidad de imágenes y sonidos interesantes, y la letra es críptica e imaginativo en todas sus partes, y no faltan canciones con transiciones de acordes inusuales, instrumentaciones que suenan extrañas y matices de distintas emociones, por lo que muchas personas encuentran en éste disco un álbum difícil para escuchar, pero para oídos cabezones acostumbrados a las más enroscadas composiciones que ha dado el rock (y más allá del rock) ésto será moco'e'pavo. En todo caso, lo importante es que se trata de un triunfo en la carrera de Bowie. Un logro muy creativo y emocionante.

Hablar de David Bowie es hablar de un tipo que entiende y se alimenta de los sonidos en boga que circulan según el lugar/tiempo en el cual este ser humano esté parado. Darle un vistazo a su robusta carrera es no sólo una muestra de diversidad, sino una demostración de la gran visión musical de lo que lo rodea. ¿Ejemplos? ¿Para qué? ¿Nunca escuchaste un The Man Who Sold the World? ¿Y te avivaste que fusiona de manera acertada el hard rock y el progresivo tan en boga en los primeros 70? Y ni hablar de Ziggy Stardust luego de la bomba glam que fue Electric Warrior. Esto también se podría decir de la trilogía berlinesa, pero con la diferencia que aquí la dupla goleadora de Bowie – Eno sellan un estilo personal, pero ése es otro tema del cual ya hablaremos. En los 80 Bowie se vio en el incómodo momento de dispersión musical extrema y tomó el camino mas fácil. Que para ser sinceros, el 80 por ciento de las bandas cabeceras tomaría.
El disco que hoy nos reúne en este lado del monitor sería como el regreso de Bowie a la aceptación, para muchos una resurrección, para otros no más que un manotazo de ahogado de un tipo que aún vivía de glorias pasadas. Lo que sí es indiscutible es que el disco abre un dejo de esperanza y es el principio de la ultima evolución camaleónica de su carrera, el cual tiene su pico en el genial Heathen. ¿Y por qué no revisar ése, entonces? Primero: es interesante el poco consenso que hay sobre un disco que no hace más que beber hasta el mareo del rock alternativo e industrial mezclándolo con lo mejor de su etapa berlinesa (el mismo Eno está atrás de las consolas), y segundo: yo reviso lo que se me da la pija. No rompan las pelotas.
Mi opinión es clara: Estamos frente a un disco con grandes canciones y grandes agüeros traducidos a temas que no sabemos para qué están. No por ser el trabajo más largo de Bowie tiende a aburrir al oyente. Lo aburre por los experimentos boludos e innecesarios que, para colmo, abundan: Los llamados “Segue” en su mayoría no dejan de ser extraños extractos de conversaciones extrañas y enfermas de diferentes personajes que abundan en este mundo raro que es Outside. Yo no entiendo una pija de inglés y, la verdad, creo que si entendiera igual no sumarían a un concepto que de por sí no entiendo. Si sacamos cuentas son aproximadamente 30 minutos de música que se disfrutan poco y nada haciendo al disco largo verdaderamente al pedo.
¿Por qué Bowie quiso hacer un disco que en su tiempos de gloria sería doble cuando no se enfoca en todos sus temas? Porque las composiciones en las cuales se nota un trabajo, una búsqueda de la perfección, no dejan de ser grandes temas que podrían codearse con otras gemas de antaño en cualquier compilado bastardo. Y de estos temas Outside tiene suficientes para hacer un gran trabajo. La pista homónima con su melodía y atmósfera oscura ya demuestra que el camaleón ha vuelto a la buena senda. “The Heart's Filthy Lesson” (el corte lanzamiento) muestra a Bowie como pez en el agua sobre los cimientos de rock industrial, como la bellamente triste y melancólica “Strangers When We Meet”, o la claustrofóbica “The Motel”. Queda por destacar dos temas con cortes electrónicos. La despejada pero infecciosa “No Control” y “I’m Deranged”, tema utilizado por Lynch en su Lost Highway.
David Bowie quiso demostrar que volvía al buen camino y lo hizo a lo grande. No con un trabajo que rebosa genialidad, ni mucho menos con un disco que pueda medirse con sus mejores trabajos setenteros. Pero para todo fan que haya disfrutado con Heathen o aquél que esté metido en la magnífica música que se hacía en la segunda década infame es una buena opción para descansar después de clavarse un Nueva Chicago – Colegiales con un termidor en la punta de los labios, y que sea lo que Dios quiera.
Gust

Y vayamos con algunos comentarios en inglés que les van a dar más idea del concepto, la historia y la música del disco:

David Bowie seemed like an artist without direction ever since the success of Let's Dance, switching styles and genres with a speed that made him appear nervous, not innovative. Recorded with his former collaborator Brian Eno, Outside was intended to return some luster to his rapidly tarnishing reputation. Instead of faux soul or mainstream pop -- or even dissonant hard rock, for that matter -- Bowie concentrates on the atmospheric, disturbing electronic soundscapes of his late-'70s "Berlin" trilogy (Low, Heroes, and Lodger), adding slight, but detectable, elements of industrial, grunge, and ambient techno. Bowie also raised the stakes by making Outside the first in a series of concept albums about mystery, murder, art, and cyberspace. Everything that would have made Outside a triumphant comeback seemed to be in place, but the album is severely flawed. Not only is the story poorly developed and confusing, but the album is simply too long. Throughout the record, good ideas bubble to the surface, yet are never fully explored, and the sheer bulk of the album means that the good songs -- "Hallo Spaceboy," "Strangers When We Meet," "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" -- are buried underneath the weight of the mediocre material. Furthermore, nothing on the album is a departure from Bowie's late-'70s records; when he does experiment with newer musical forms or write about futuristic technology, he seems unsure of himself. That said, Outside is Bowie's most satisfying and adventurous album since Let's Dance. It's clear that he's trying once again, and when he does hit his mark, he remains a brilliant artist.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine

David Bowie has made a career of being anything and everything other than himself. As rock & roll's consummate quick-change artist, he has created some of the greatest leading roles in the pop-art theater of the imagination: the bisexual charmer of Hunky Dory; the star-crossed alien lipstick-killer Ziggy Stardust; the white-soul dandy of Young Americans; that vampiric-looking beanpole the Thin White Duke; the disco sophisticate of Let's Dance.
But Outside, Bowie's first album since his 1993 debacle, Black Tie, White Noise — and a highly anticipated studio reunion with Brian Eno, the co-architect of Bowie's bench-mark Berlin trilogy Low, "Heroes" and Lodger — is way too much of a good thing. Bowie's almost pathological fear of dropping all the masks, of simply reveling in the power of a good chorus and the soulful quiver of his maturing tenor, has driven him into multiple-personality overdrive and forced melodrama. The music — a potent collection of avant-garage riffs and rhythm notions co-written mostly with Eno and echoing the weird science of Low and "Heroes" — feels shoehorned into the script with frustrating rigidity.
It didn't have to be that way. When his voice isn't being abused by synthetic effects to suit some plot device, Bowie sings with full-bodied vigor and an affecting drama that suits the burned-orange tinge of his and Eno's industrial-apocalypse soundscapes. Bowie digs into the plastic rattling funk of "Thru' These Architects Eyes" with a ragged enthusiasm, and his simple, shattering delivery of the words I shake in "The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (As Beauty)" broadcasts the homicidal delirium of the song much more effectively than the heavymental title.
Indeed, it's the superfluous wordage — the intrusive spoken monologues, the jury-rigged cybernoir narrative, the overelaborate characterizations — that damn near sink the record. You can practically feel the weight of Bowie's own description of his story line: "A nonlinear Gothic drama hypercycle." Outside is really just a confusing highbrow detective fable — Sam Spade meets Neuromancer via Naked Lunch — laid out as the diary of Nathan Adler, a futurist shamus specializing in art-crime investigations (as opposed to crimes against art, which too often go unpunished in real life).
On Outside, Adler is wrapped up a little too tightly in the high-concept ritual murder of Baby Grace Blue, an adolescent of undetermined sexuality. A colorful parade of riffraff with nifty handles like Algeria Touchshriek passes through the diary entries, but nothing much happens aside from Bowie and Adler's fevered meditations on sculpted gore and the violent possibilities of self-expression. (Best line: "Art's a farmyard. It's my job to pick thru the manure heap for the peppercorns.")
All that explication belies the smart, sharp stab of Bowie's more effective lyric writing. The lines "Poor dunce/He pushed back the pigmen/The Barbs laughed/The fool is dead" in "A Small Plot of Land," a looping piece of freakcabaret jazz, say much more about the long dark shadows and desperate, clawing evil poisoning of the Outside world than all of Bowie's prose wordplay. "I Have Not Been to Oxford Town," the jail-house lament of a petty thief falsely accused of the murder, is delivered by Bowie with a nice slice of wry: "And the prison priests are decent/My attorney seems sincere/I fear my days are numbered." (Also note the song's sly reference to Bowie's 1975 hit, "Fame," in the skittering, metallic rhythm guitar.)
Taken in parts (a bit like the poor, disassembled Baby Grace), Outside has irresistible charms: the tense Euro-dance propulsion of "The Hearts Filthy Lesson"; the layered, circular-guitar locomotion of "Voyeur...," like Philip Glass in a King Crimson mood. "Hello Space-boy" is the sound of Bowie and Eno going nuclear on Trent Reznor's death-disco dance floor, hot-wiring the migraine gallop of Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" into a ferociously distorted whirl of slaughterhouse jive.
It's too bad that Bowie and Eno don't allow themselves the luxury of a straightforward pop song until the very end. You have to wade through 19 tracks of conceptual mischief to get to the simple melodic development and swelling chorus of "Strangers When We Meet." The song doesn't do much for Outside's lack of dramatic resolution (the last line in Adler's diary is "To be continued...."). But it shows that Eno can whip up great, uncomplicated pop when he lets his egghead defenses down and that in Bowie's best work, a little drama still goes a long way.
David Fricke

Outside - definitely an album best enjoyed in its entirety - sees Bowie going industrial rock/cyberpunk, with an ambitious (perhaps too ambitious, even for Bowie?) attempt at a high-concept album. It's a noir thriller about Nathan Adler, an investigator dealing with "art crimes", set in an alternate 1999. The story itself is sadly unresolved, and the album itself isn't really all that linear, which doesn't really matter, since the mood is there all through.
This is, along with Billy Idol's Cyberpunk, my favorite cyberpunk album. Where Cyberpunk is more of an action cyberpunk movie in music form, a Johnny Mnemonic for instance, Outside is a noir thriller along the lines of Dark City. While I prefer the second kind of movie, I actually think Cyberpunk is the better album (by a very slight margin). Go figure. In no way does that mean I think Outside is a poor album though, it's still really great. The thing is there are only few songs that work on their own here - notable exceptions are Hallo Spaceboy, The Motel, No Control, We Prick You, Thru' These Architects Eyes - the rest are excellent within the setting of the album, but don't quite work (as well) as stand-alone songs.
The music itself is very soundtrack-like, for the most part quite subdued industrial rock, with a recurring jazz-feel and lots of programmed beats and the mood is generally quite paranoid. And, of course, it all sounds like Bowie. From looking at the ratings and reading the reviews, this seems to be quite an overlooked/frowned upon/disliked Bowie album, which I find strange - it is by far my favourite of his. Of course, I'm coming into this from an industrial rock perspective, so that might be why I feel the way I do.
I'm tempted to say that the album is a bit too long - clocking in at over 70 minutes (74:14 according to my WinAmp library), it's a lot of Bowie to take in in one sitting. But it works. It's varied, and for once the skits (or segues in this case) work - they provide narrative and breathing room.
I need to comment on the final track as well - Strangers When We Meet. It is a fantastic way to end the album, a lot more upbeat than the rest of the album, it feels like stepping back out into reality - or, to continue with the movie imagery, it's the perfect "credits music", when the lights go on in the cinema.
The bonus disc contains five remixes of The Hearts Filthy Lesson and four remixes/versions of Hallo Spaceboy, both were singles released I believe? Of these, I prefer the Hallo Spaceboy remixes, mostly because, well, I prefer that song to begin with. There's a pretty pointless, shortened version of A Small Plot of Land (Basquiat) as well as an entirely pointless I Am With Name (Album Version) - which, as one might guess, is the same version which can be found on the first disc. I guess they've included stuff from singles and what not, but really? There's a kinda neat "jungle mix" of I'm Deranged too, longer and with added breakbeats to it, and finally two throw-away non-album tracks in Get Real and Nothing To Be Desired.
If you've already got the original version, I honestly don't see the need in getting the Special Limited 2CD Edition, unless you're a completist or just dig the fancy packaging. If you don't have the original though, I would probably recommend getting this double disc edition, mostly for the packaging (and possibly the Hallo Spaceboy remixes).
I've been on the fence about the rating for this for quite some time too, but I think it's finally ended up at 4.5 now. It is an awesome album in many ways, but in order for me to bump it up to a 5.0, I would have wanted the songs to have held up a bit better individually. As it is, as a whole this is just great - but I can't really pick out any all-time favourite songs.
Teishi

Isn't it funny how a negative review can inspire you to check out an album much more than a positive one sometimes? I heard about 1. Outside in a brief guide to Bowie's catalogue that skimmed over all of his albums and ranked them, and despite the waves of positivity aimed at Ziggy Stardust, Hunky Dory, and Low, this apparent 2-star album stood out by a mile as the most interesting thing on the list. 'Too dense', 'too arty', 'too conceptual', 'too ambitious', said the reviewer. 'Sounds great', said me.
Fair enough, I was relatively young at the time (15, I think) and was still at the stage where I thought progressive metal was the most amazing thing ever and that complexity, rather than tunefulness or restraint, was a virtue. Reading the same review now, I'd probably have thought nothing of it (you can't spend more than 3 months listening to bad prog without realizing that 'too dense' and 'too conceptual' are genuine insults rather than backhanded compliments), but it was enough at the time to encourage me to seek this album out and make it the first Bowie album I ever bought.
The problem I have with judging how good this really is is that I don't know how I'd have reacted to it if I'd heard it later. 1.Outside (which is subtitled The Ritual Art-Murder of Baby Grace Blue: A Non-Linear Gothic Drama Hyper-Cycle, by the way) really does beat you about the head with its concept - the CD inlay is one of the most carefully-presented and ridiculous in my collection. The concept, detailed in the short story The Diary of Nathan Adler which makes up most of the inlay, revolves around a dystopian world where murder has become an art form and corpses are being used as canvases, and the government have responded by legislating all art and heavily restricting its creation - the titular Nathan Adler is a government official employed to investigate art and decide what is legal and acceptable, and what is not. This leads him to invesigate the murder of a 14 year old girl which appears to be linked to an underground art collective.
If this all sounds like a mish-mash of Minority Report and 1984 to you, then you've pegged it. Yet it's important to note that if you don't read the inlay, you probably won't understand the story - unlike an album like Operation:Mindcrime, the songs themselves are reasonably vague and don't tell a story as such, creating a mood instead. I actually find it a little surprising that this came out in 1995, rather than 2005; I don't own any other album where the inlay adds so much to the music, which would seem like a pretty great way of discouraging illegal downloading if downloading has actually existed back then.
Then again, in terms of sound, it's pretty clear that this came out in '95. Bowie was pretty open in interviews about his influences here, pointing to The Young Gods particularly, but it's no accident that this came out just a year after The Downward Spiral. It's no copycat or sequel - Bowie and Eno's personalities still run right through the music - but the links are obvious, and I find it very hard to listen to this without wondering whether they'd have been brave enough to even attempt it if Trent Reznor hadn't already proved that there was a mass audience for this sound.
But if you can overlook that, and you can accept the story as part of the project and not dismiss it as pretentious, overarching whimsy, you'll find a thoughtful, intense, dark, powerful album that probably ranks as Bowie's under-rated, and that surely has to be considered his best in 15 years at least. Many have pointed to "Strangers When We Meet", "Hallo Spaceboy", and "The Heart's Filthy Lesson" as highlights, and they certainly are when taken in isolation, but the album is best enjoyed as a whole, with the distressing segues and experiments like "A Small Plot of Land" treated as a vital part of the experience. Weirdly, "Hallo Spaceboy" almost feels like the worst track on the album when in context, because the mood is so important and this nearly breaks it. That's just one of the many reasons why the still-enigmatic 1.Outside is unlike any other Bowie album. It's arguably an album more for fans of the outer fringes of '90s rock rather than fans of Bowie, but either way, there is much to recommend this beguiling record.
Iai

1.Outside saw Bowie reunite with Brian Eno and return to their Berlin-era way of making music. Using characters for the first time since 1976, 1.Outside captures David at his most adventurous, not afraid to experiment with different musical styles, and once again utilising his famous 'cut-up' technique of writing – here is an album which, over a decade later, still sounds unlike anything else.
As a concept album, 1.Outside succeeds where 1974's Diamond Dogs failed slightly. It takes you through a dark underworld of pre-millennial tension and shifty characters – in the centre of which is Detective Nathad Adler, who is persuing the horrific "art crime" murder of 14-year-old baby Grace Blue. The story goes on, but you can take or leave the occasional injections of vocally-distorted narrative, as it won't alter the feel or enjoyment of this album.
In many ways, 1.Outside rebels against every bit of commercial success that Bowie had since the early 80s. As an creative work, it easily stands alongside the likes of Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs and Low, with Bowie in full theatrical flow and artistic freedom.
The music of 1.Outside combines various musical styles, and some of Bowie's strongest vocals to date. Bowie's brief collaborations with Nine Inch Nails are an obvious influence, creating a soundscape unlike any other Bowie album, and a fantastic production quality and atmosphere, courtesy of Brian Eno. Some may view 1.Outside as pretentious art-rock, but this album is far more than that, fusing various styles together from heavy, gritty rock, to electronica, industrial and even jazz, with Mike Garson's abstract Aladdin Sane-style piano playing at its very best.
Sounding like a lost soundtrack to a David Lynch movie, 1.Outside boasts great tracks such as "The Motel", "The Hearts Filthy Lesson", "A Small Plot of Land", "No Control", "I'm Derranged", "We Prick You", "Thru These Architect's Eyes" and the thunderous "Hallo Spaceboy". Rather than continuing with the radio-friendly style of Black Tie, White Noise, 1.Outside instead connects with albums such as Buddha of Suburbia, and Lodger. If the album has any commercial moments at all, then it is the the reworking of "Strangers When We Meet" (originally on Buddha of Suburbia), which though something of a misfit, closes the album nicely.
For me, 1.Outside is Bowie's creative masterpiece, pulling together influence from his own back catalogue, wrapped up in a mix of contemporary musical styles. Although, 1.Outside didn't have the desired impact at the time, in recent years it has been more favourably looked upon – and rightly so. Bowie wasn't afraid to dive headlong into a wealth of musical ideas, not unlike some of his greatest works. After the success of Black Tie, White Noise, Bowie needed to take a risk, and venture into new musical territories – after all, that's what he does best – and the result is a stunning and dense, textured album of creativity, energy, atmosphere and pure Bowie.
AlexS

Since Scary Monsters at the beginning of the 80s, Bowie albums had generally been creatively flagging. Let’s Dance had been the only one of much real note, with the other’s being over-stuffed with covers (Tonight and Black Tie White Noise) or else dominated by impossibly weak originals (Never Let Me Down). Having spent the 70s making album after album that could justify a place on anyone’s hundred greatest records list, Bowie was suddenly bereft of ideas. There were some one off moments of glory here and there (“Absolute Beginners”, “Jump They Say”, “Time Will Crawl”) but suddenly Bowie was no longer an “album’s artist” and was teetering dangerously on the ledge of the has-been chasm. All this was about to change with a breathtaking suddenness.
Bowie had disappointed most fans with the comeback Black Tie White Noise, in which he was reunited with Let’s Dance producer Nile Rodgers in a calculated attempt to grab the commercial spotlight. However, the sort of tired pop he was peddling was long out of fashion and while the inevitable furore over Bowie’s return ultimately propelled the album to the top of the charts, the record was a critical flop. It was perhaps this slide from credibility that provoked Bowie to get back in touch with Brian Eno, his collaborator on the celebrated and culturally important Berlin trilogy. If this was the case, however, and Bowie was attempting a similar grab for critical acclaim as he had for commercial success with Black Tie…, the materiel on the resulting album did not betray any such cynical intentions.
Bowie had curried some critical favour with his ‘Buddha of Suburbia’ soundtrack and this proved a good jumping off point from which to plunge back into experimentation after so long playing the pop star. Outside was originally conceived as the first in a five album cycle (hence it’s full title 1. Outside), which proved that Bowie was not entering into this dangerous musical territory lightly. Perhaps mercifully, this plan never came to fruition. As superb as Outside proved to be, another four albums in the same vein would have proved hard to stomach and ultimately tainted the brilliance of the first record in the cycle. Indeed, at nineteen tracks and 75 minutes in length, Outside is a tough listen on its own. The dark subject matter and extreme experimentation also mean that you have to be in a very specific mood to listen to and enjoy Outside in its entirety (as it should undoubtedly be experienced). Chances are, however, that when you are in that mood you will listen to the album more than a couple of times in quick succession.
After the covers heavy records Bowie had been putting out it is a joy to behold a track listing completely devoid of other people’s materiel. Even discounting the shorter, linking segments, there are still 14 full length original compositions to go at. The links, or “segues”, however, should not be discounted in any form since they form a sort of backbone for the album. Outside is a concept album based around the murder of the fictional 14 year old girl Baby Grace in a so-called “art-crime”, meaning that her innards have been exhibited as art. The non-linear tale never emerges as a coherent story (and is never really meant to) but Bowie succeeds brilliantly at immersing the listener in the seedy, unnerving world he and Eno have created. The spoken segues, rashly dismissed by some as filler, are crucial in creating this atmosphere since they provide us with direct introductions to several of the main characters, all of whom are portrayed by Bowie both on the record and in the brilliant sleeve artwork.
The first of the segues introduces us to murder victim Baby Grace through the medium of “A Horrid Cassette”. The segue is aptly named, since the track is one of the most unsettling listens on the record. Bowie’s voice is twisted into a helium whimper as he fumbles through a vague description of the clearly distressed Grace’s indeterminable situation just moments before “something horrid is going to happen”, presumably the murder and artistic mutilation of the 14 year old girl.
The next segue is a little more tinged with humour, though perhaps still nearly as disturbing. It focuses on the wonderfully named Algeria Touchshriek, a elderly, self-confessed “broken man” who longs for another broken man to talk to. We learn little of Touchshriek’s involvement with the plot or why anyone would suspect him of murder outside of the fact that he is clearly a slightly crazy old kook. Bowie gives his best performance of the segues in the guise of the rambling of geezer.
The third segue finds Bowie’s voice given the helium treatment again in order to portray the album’s most threatening creation, Ramona A. Stone. Unlike the frightened whimper of Baby Grace, Ramona’s voice is more akin to the helium gurglings of something from Gerry Anderson’s Terrahawks. Again, there is a touch of warped humour as Bowie hints at pretension and delusion’s of grandeur as he declares “I was an artiste”, with a joyous little inflection.
Finally we get the most upbeat of the segues, an amusing noir-ish narration from “art detective” Nathan Adler, a smooth and speedy recitation in a suitably deadpan style backed by a funky little guitar tune. Adler is revisited in a tiny 28 second remix, the penultimate track on the album which focuses mainly on the observation “Ramona was so cold”.
For many, the segues on Outside are a little too much but they provide some much needed dark humour, a great deal of atmosphere and a greater coherence of plot which, while it does not allow the listener to make head nor tail of proceedings, does succeed in helping pull together the tracks into one glorious whole.
As is probably clear by now, Outside is a far cry from any of Bowie’s 80s output. In fact, it is a far cry from anything Bowie had done before or since. It is darker and more unrelenting that any of the Berlin trilogy and overall more experimental than pretty much anything in his catalogue. Bowie has often been criticised for trying to adopt styles that some feel are beyond him (most notably with the drum and bass and dance experiments of Earthling). There is no danger of such accusations being levelled at Outside. Bowie is playing with fire here, creating a musical atmosphere all his own.
If there is one track that could be perceived as dangerous territory for Bowie influence-wise it is the lead single “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson”, in which he tackles downbeat industrial rock, a genre he had not previously attempted. Fortunately, then, the track is so strikingly brilliant that any accusations of old-man-playing-young would be totally unfounded. Although its lack of commercial potential ultimately meant it only just scraped the top 40, “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” is a classic lost Bowie single full of thunderous drums, reverberating guitars, breathy chanting and so brilliant spoken background mumblings that come into their own towards the song’s climax. While Bowie had released some good singles recently in the shape of “Miracle Goodnight” and “Jump They Say”, neither were a patch on this monstrous creation, the accompanying video for which had to be edited since it was deemed too horrific by MTV. It may not have been a commercially wise decision to make it the lead single but, for the first time in years, Bowie didn’t really seem to care.
“The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” was a very honest choice for lead single since it is easily the most representative of the singles released from Outside. Two more singles were put out, both also Bowie classics in their own right, but they are clearly anomalies as far as the album is concerned. Actually, n the case of the commercially successful “Hallo Spaceboy” this isn’t exactly true. On the album, the track is another downbeat pounding rock song, quite at home amongst its counterparts if still a little livelier paced than most tracks. The version that was released was a stunning pop creation for which Bowie enlisted the help of the Pet Shop Boys. In it’s single form, “Hallo Spaceboy” recalled the gender bending, space obsessed Bowie of the 70s and, helped by a lifetime achievement award and a performance of the track at the Brit Awards, the track stalled just outside the top 10. Both versions of the song are excellent in different ways and play their parts to perfection. The banging album version would have seemed quite lost as a single, just as the glitzy single mix would have stuck out like a sore thumb on the album.
Perhaps the album’s best single, though, is closing track “Strangers When We Meet”. A reworking of a song from Buddha of Suburbia, Eno and Bowie have worked the song up into a “Heroes” style epic. Astonishingly, this quite beautiful Bowie classic fared even more poorly in the charts than “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” when its mainstream crossover potential should surely have returned him to the top ten once more. In terms of its place on the album, “Strangers When We Meet” could only have worked as the final track. To place it anywhere else would have completely broken up the flow of the album whereas the track works wonders as a finale, a soothing calm after the raging storm. It also boasts one of Bowie’s best vocals of recent memory.
For those who were scared off by the singles alone, Outside is a no-go area. There’s some far more experimental work on the album, most extreme of all being the two six-minute-plus tracks that appear with relative proximity early on in the album. The first of these, “A Small Plot of Land”, is the better of the two. A warped, wayward mess of tinkling piano and throbbing drums over which Bowie lays his oddest vocal (aside from the segues). There’s no discernible chorus but the song is held together by the alluringly odd hook “Poor dunce” or “Poor soul” which Bowie continues to wail throughout in a way that makes each line of the song seem strangely unfinished. In sharp contrast to the noise chaos of “A Small Plot of Land”, the even lengthier “The Motel” is a snail paced, dirge like fragile ballad for the first 3 minutes before a drumbeat picks up the pace and the song slowly opens up into a fuller, ever-less delicate vocal showcase for Bowie. These two track represent the most challenging moments on Outside and the decision to place them so close to one another so early on in the album was brave to say the least. Then again, we are talking about the man who elevated “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” to lead off single.
Of course, Outside isn’t all as oblique as its two epics. Those two challenging tracks appear, alongside “Hallo Spaceboy” and “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson”, sandwiched between two of the album’s most instantly attention grabbing songs. After the album opens with the brief atmospheric swirling of “Leon Takes Us Outside”, a mood setter that eschews Bowie’s recent penchant for opening with a big commercial number, the album plunges headlong into its title track. “Outside” the song is an epic sounding track with a grotty edge which mirrors the sense of depressing decay inherent in the album. It grows in stature throughout much like “The Motel”, except “Outside” doesn’t start out fragile. Instead it kicks off the album with one of the fullest sounding arrangements on the record and builds to a more pronounced bellow in its chorus. Also notable are the twinkling effects that would seem to have influenced Grandaddy who use identical sound effects on several of their tracks.
The more stripped down, raw “I Have Not Been to Oxford Town” provides us with a proper introduction to the 22 year old prime suspect Leon Blank who pleads his case with the title alibi. It’s the catchiest song on the album, with a proper sing-a-long chorus and everything. It’s upbeat nature would have made it the perfect choice for a single were it not so deeply entrenched in the album’s narrative. But to cut it loose from the album would have made it a perplexing experience and it would seem somewhat adrift on its own. Instead, then, it remains as a very welcome, catchy pop song to bring us back from the edge after “The Motel”.
Similarly to Leon Blank’s full song introduction, Ramona A Stone is afforded an entire song of her own tagged onto the end of her segue. “I Am With Name” is a fiercely rhythmic chant, in some ways as catchy as “I Have Not Been To Oxford Town” but a good deal more unsettling. Ramona is undoubtedly the most frightening character on the album and this dark, drum heavy track reflects that with the juxtaposition of the playground innocence of the central chant and the unnerving music that underscores it.
Bowie complicates his already over-complex story by introducing the Minotaur as a narrator for the song “The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (As Beauty)”. Quite how the Minotaur fits into the plot is anyone’s guess but by this time most people will have given up trying to follow any kind of coherent plot and, to tell the truth, I wouldn’t have even recognised that the song was meant to be from the Minotaur’s point of view had I not read it in a book! All this matter little, though, when it is such a fine song. Underscored by another thumping beat, the song is supported by Bowie’s constant shrieks of “I SAY” and a rather lovely pseudo-chorus that never actually reappears after its initial arrival. Instead, as is so common on Outside, Bowie immerses himself in the ever more overwhelming noise. A more conventional arrangement can be found in “No Control”, a neatly constructed verse-chorus song that retains the feeling of terror that is splashed all over the album but, ironically, I-re-instates a sense of control lost during the more wayward tracks. The song is paired with “…Oxford Town” to form a less giddying mid-section to the album before we are propelled into “The Voyeur of Utter Destruction”.
Things don’t get any less frightening with “Wishful Beginnings”, a contender for the weirdest track on the album. It is also perhaps the only intolerable song on Outside thanks to a relentless belching noise that Bowie has seen fit to graft onto this ominous, fragile track. It doesn’t make for an enjoyable listen, especially at over 5 minute long, but even without the bizarre belching noises (and they do persist through the entire song), “Wishful Beginnings” would still be perhaps one snail paced song too many. It lacks the appeal of the other more experimental, slow pieces and seems to pin all its hopes on the annoying sound affect. Fortunately, “Wishful Beginnings” is followed up by two full-bodied dancey experiments. The best of the two is “We Prick You”, a comic tinged, tentatively upbeat track with a rousing, if bizarre, shout-a-long chorus. Like “Hallo Spaceboy” or “…Oxford Town” it provides some welcome relief without shattering the mood. “I’m Deranged”, meanwhile, is another unerringly dark swamp of a song which reinstates the noise chaos style of “A Small Plot of Land” but with a fuller bodied arrangement.
It is appropriate at this point, when the darkness is all becoming a little overwhelming, that Outside begins to draw to a close with one of it’s more attractive, conventional offerings. “Thru’ These Architect’s Eyes” is a magnificent composition that actually looks for some beauty in the mangled world Bowie has created, described as “the majesty of a city landscape”. “Thru’ These Architect’s Eyes”, with its wonderful chorus, would have made a very good single, if one of little more commercial potential that “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson”. It nicely points us in the direction of sanity again, leading us via the brief final segue to a safe exit from this troubling world with closing track “Strangers When We Meet”.
As you can probably tell from this monstrous review, Outside is not an easy listening experience. It is an album you have to revisit and live with in order to fully appreciate. Like many, it had me utterly perplexed on first listen. It is perhaps not too harsh to suggest that fans of Bowie’s 80s work alone will probably never unlock its brilliance. Then again, a good portion of the fans who appreciate his earlier experiments will be turned off by it too. Outside is something of a challenge, and it is a joy to say so after Bowie had turned his back on experimental music for such a long time. It stands as easily his most ambitious and darkest work to date and, despite being a listening experience most will rarely be in the mood to indulge in, one of his very best.
madmanmunt

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