Sunday, December 5, 2010

Station to Station (1976)


1. Station to Station: Masterpiece #20. This colossal and genuinely thrilling title track opens with a train chugging from speaker to speaker before moving into a sound rooted in the motorik rhythms of Neu! and Kraftwerk combined with a funk groove. Bowie introduces his icy new character the Thin White Duke with a deadening paranoia and a veiled plea to return to Europe via semi-mystical invocations. One of the few 4-part 10 minute songs I wish were longer. This track is simply a tour-de-force and one of Bowie’s greatest ever moments on record. 10.0

2. Golden Years: A logical follow up to the funk of Fame, the snappy Golden Years finds Bowie in career-best form as a vocalist and tunesmith. Some lovely falsetto with the band sounding tight riding a faultless groove and a soaring chorus, it’s the album’s only conventional rock song and an irresistible one at that. 9.0

3. Word on a Wing: Masterpiece #21. One of Bowie’s most underrated songs. An elegiac ballad with a hint of desperation in the delivery and the lyrics. Free of any cynicism or sarcasm it’s quite a complex song sung in such a genuine way giving it both dignity and beauty. Some outstanding work from E-Street pianist Roy Bitten who excels all over this album, none more so than here. 10.0

4. TVC15: A silly story about his TV eating Iggy Pop’s girlfriend, this song is mostly the repeated chorus outro refrain of “oh my TVC15, oh oh, TVC15”. It’s a fun, bizarre song and a little avant-garde that works musically, however it’s overlong and the weakest track here. 7.5

5. Stay: Built around a one of the best post-Ronson guitar riffs, this track finds the magnificent rhythm section that is Alomar, Murray and Davis in funk fusion art rock overdrive while Bowie croons quite a beautifully melodic chorus that sounds alarmingly like ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’. Towards the end this really cooks, particularly live with Adrian Belew on guitar circa '78. 9.0

6. Wild is the Wind: The now legendary Wild is the Wind opened his triumphant Glastonbury return in 2000, and what a song! Musically subtle, the acoustic and electric guitars on this song are superb, but the fearless, melodramatic vocal performance confirms it as one of the most stunning covers of all time. 9.5


VERDICT: A transitional album and lyrically, an impenetrable one. Station to Station was recorded in Hollywood in a blizzard of cocaine use and was a milestone for Bowie’s career to date, effectively dividing the '70's introducing us to the first taste of the new music that was to follow, while closing the glam and plastic soul era. This is the album where The Thin White Duke displays his ability to bring his profoundly European sense of pop drama to rhythms and grooves played by a multi-racial blend of musicians, and pushing his great art into a challenging new direction, even if he can’t remember making it. The original stately black and white album cover has finally been reinstated after various flirtations with the coloured impostor.

NEXT: “Isn't it great to be on your own, let's just pull down the blinds and fuck ‘em all.”

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