Monday, August 13, 2007

Diamond DogFood

Props go to Mattie-O from for cluing me in on this slice of terrible pie.

Few artists in the history of recorded music are able to survive the curse of the fourth album. After recording three albums of material that both the critics and masses enjoy, an ensuing dud kills the untouchable mystique of the band. The band/artist are forced to quickly patch together a placating collection of tunes to satisfy the critiques (Dylan, New Morning), or they fade away and have a comeback record 3 years later.

And then there is David Bowie. It can be argued that there will never be another artist quite like him. From The Man Who Sold the World (1970) to Scary Monsters(1980) Davey recorded 13 albums. Read that again. In a decade, he simply crushed shit like it was his job, not even counting live records or that Peter and Wolf thing. Also, his production and arranging work for Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Mott the Hoople speak volumes of his work ethic. Outside of Neil Young's output, no one even came even close in the 1970's.

Now, by the time Diamond Dogs came around, he was 6 albums deep into this run. Six albums of brilliance, from the singer-songwriter gem Hunky Dory to the glam-opera magnificence of Ziggy Stardust. I guess Stephen Thomas Erlewine decided Davey had it too easy, deciding to shit on Diamond Dogs for no apparent reason. His rating of 2 1/2 stars out of 5 is absolutely baffling. Erlewine is usually above this tripe, so let's see where he went wrong.

David Bowie fired the Spiders From Mars shortly after the release of Pin Ups, but he didn't completely leave the Ziggy Stardust persona behind.

A little historical backdrop, and for Erlewine the problem starts here. Bowie is confused and doesn't know who he is as an artist. I think this is interesting plot line for an album, and would initially view this record as a cool document of the struggle. Just based on that, this album already has a 3 star rating.

Diamond Dogs
suffers precisely because of this -- he doesn't know how to move forward. Originally conceived as a concept album based on George Orwell's 1984, Diamond Dogs evolved into another one of Bowie's paranoid future nightmares.

Alright, so the album suffers because he doesn't know how to move forward? This is starting to smack of an opinion piece. Erlewine wants this to be a cohesive piece of music, but it isn't. Just because Bowie at first thought it would be a concept record doesn't mean it's a failure. Remember Low? It was a failed movie soundtrack. It also turned out to be a masterpiece.

Throughout the album, there are hints that he's tired with the Ziggy formula, particularly in the disco underpinning of "Candidate" and his cut-and-paste lyrics. However, it's not enough to make Diamond Dogs a step forward, and without Mick Ronson to lead the band, the rockers are too stiff to make an impact.
Wouldn't you be tired of the Ziggy formula, considering that he was 3 albums and 2 years removed from that album? Hmm...wasn't it the music critics who desperately clung to his Ziggy image? And wait, "cut and paste" lyrics are a negative? I hate this: an artist goes in a specific direction with their lyrics, and because they don't follow the specific rules they themselves have laid down, they are slammed. I like to call this artistic growth, or experimentation. You can't possibly know that these are throw-away lyrics unless you were David Bowie. And you're not, Stephen.

Also, the band is too stiff to make an impact? What impact were you looking for? Did you need every single song to chart? You can't throw around language like that.

Ironically, the one exception is one of Bowie's very best songs -- the tight, sexy "Rebel Rebel."

Is it really that ironic, Stephen? Couldn't you have realized that most of this review is flawed by your bias? How could a stiff band of rockers produce one of Bowie's best? Also, in this sentence you've claimed that this song is the one good song on the record. We'll revisit this thought soon.

The song doesn't have much to do with the theme, and the ones he does throw in to further the story usually fall flat.

What?! What theme? I thought you said this album was based on a failed 1984-based concept? If it has failed, why are you still holding Bowie's music up to that theme/story? This is really confusing the hell out of me.

Diamond Dogs isn't a total waste, with "1984," "Candidate," and "Diamond Dogs" all offering some sort of pleasure, but it is the first record since Space Oddity where Bowie's reach exceeds his grasp.

Remember when Erlewine said that this record only had one good song? Oh, well, three other songs have joined it. Great. Also, what the hell? You don't know what kind of pleasure good music brings people? How about "aural pleasure"? Or just ear pleasure. Jesus Christ.

Also, let it be known that Erlewine cites Space Oddity as a failure. Guess who wrote that review? Steve Thomas Erlewine. Cool, so I guess he knows Bowie better than anyone. Yuck. Diamond Dogs, based on this review, should have at least received 3 stars. This is just another case of ONE guy reviewing an ENTIRE discography of an artist. To make it seem like he doesn't have ulterior motives(like, creating the definition of a brilliant Bowie release), he unnecessarily rips this album a new anus.

Bad form, bad form.


Mattie-O said...

It should also be noted that during his 13-album run o' the 1970s, Bowie also appeared on Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" (doing the sax outro!), wrote and produced The Idiot and Lust for Life (far and away the best solo records of Iggy's career), and GAVE Mott the Hoople "All the Young Dudes," one of the great anthems of the era, if not ever.

Furthermore, "Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise)" is *the* consensus pick amongst hardcore Bowiephiles as his best work, and I'm in no mood to argue.

J. Temperance said...

Crazy that as I revised this post to include all of the info you just provided, you provided it just in case.


Shatraw said...

diamond dogs is the shit. period. it's really the album that sold me on bowie. in fact, j. temp, i seem to recall the first time i heard it was with you, playing mario tennis one balmy summer in saratoga. awesome.

i can't hear a single song from diamond dogs without all out indulging in the entire album. if that's not the hallmark of a great record, i'm not sure what is.

moreover, the unreleased version of "candidate" tacked onto the re-release is probably one of the best songs ever with the lyrical content to back it up.

Mattie-O said...

Yup, Candidate (Demo), while bearing zero resemblance to Candidate, is also the shit.

A cock ain't a cock on a 12 inch screen, brotha!

DD was my first Bowie record, and I never looked back.

In anger, or otherwise. Oooh, bad.