Earthling – David Bowie

1997 – BMG

Industrial/ Techno/ Electronic/ Alternative

David Bowie’s twentieth studio album as a follow up Outside keeps within the techno/electronic vein of that other record, however, in this album he appears to be moving further towards he drum and bass dance elements of that genre, and he seems to do it really quite well.

The opening track, Little Wonder, is strange but effective jungle beat song filled with weird noises held together through a rampaging drum beat. But despite this almost overwhelming electro feeling there is also a pervasive edge of rock which really pushes this track and the rest of the record out of being a somewhat boring dance album.

Battle For Britain (The Letter) brings the listener into even faster paced techno mayhem, this time tinged with an industrial edge, but once again there is that all important rock element holding the whole thing together. There is also a wonderful little free-jazz piano break in this track which reminds me a bit of some of the jangling heard on Aladdin Sane. Then this gem of frenzied gem of a track is followed up by the darkly subdued throbbing of Seven Years In Tibet, which sounds almost like a Nine Inch Nails song played through some kind of sixties psychedelic filter.

Really I think this album, while in many ways similar to Outside, just works a whole lot better. There is no half concocted storyline and the music has coherence about it that Outside never fully achieved. I also think that Earthling is tragically underrated (Robert Christgau said it was a complete bomb), and that it hasn’t quite gotten the reception that it deserves.

The music is richly textured and very well composed and the whole record flows through without any real low points, which, to me, is a sign of strength in music. It also doesn’t have the problem, which so many Bowie albums of this period have, of dragging on and rambling around. It’s only nine tracks long and each of them really sounds like it should be there – there are, to my mind, absolutely no place fillers on here.

Now, I’m not saying that Earthling is a true masterpiece, I mean Telling Lies and The Last Thing You Should Do aren’t really up to the standard that some of the other tracks are, but nevertheless they are still really very good. I really do think that this record is up there as one of the high points of Bowie’s career and, for me, it is probably the best album made in this industrial/electronic incarnation of the chameleon rock star.

RATING: ****/5

This tilt at industrial-rock is, I think, one of the many stand out tracks from Bowie’s 1997 album ‘Earthling’


One thought on “Earthling – David Bowie

  1. Pingback: London Boy – David Bowie | Lachlan J. Faces The Music

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