1989 – EMI
Tin Machine was David Bowie’s back-to-basics hard rock side-project formed in ’88. Why should a man evidently able to span whatever genre he wanted need to have a side project to get back to basics? I don’t know, but he can do pretty much whatever he wants, because he’s David Bowie.
The sound is heavy, guitar-driven, and bluesy, but with the avant-garde sensibilities of a music world that has been introduced to Sonic Youth. The noisy, assaulting rhythm, with its splashes of honed musical virtuosity does seem to work, and it does create a good distance between this project and the highly worked and produced tone of Bowie’s solo career. It must be noted, however, that Bowie’s voice sometimes make the group sound less like a teenage riot and more like the hardest rocking dad-band in the world, especially early in the track Tin Machine.
The band’s cover of John Lennon’s Working Class Hero is brilliant, but unfortunately it’s followed up with Bus Stop. “I’m a young man at odds with the bible” laments Bowie, and you just think to yourself, ‘really? Young man?’. Just because you’re getting back to your roots doesn’t mean you have to forget that you’re a group of middle aged men with a lot of experience in the music industry. Overall, however, none of the songs really come across as pretentious or insincere (until you flick through the liner notes and read the lyrics at least), because the music, which is the real highlight here, holds the whole thing together and keeps it pumping and throbbing like a party overcrowded with youth and disaffection.
If anything, this album could stand to be rawer and indulge further in the noise it tries to create. Some tracks, such as Prisoner Of Love and Amazing, just don’t seem to explode like the others. And Bowie’s vocals sometimes come across as restrained where they really need to be screeching and screaming, or at least sound like he’s having just a little bit of fun. But these are pretty small issues with an otherwise excellent record that doesn’t (on the whole) take itself too seriously, and plays through from strength to guitar smashing strength.
One of the stand-out tracks from Tin Machine’s debut album.