Monday, February 21, 2011

The Buddha of Suburbia (1993)


1. Buddha of Suburbia: Bowie’s homecoming. This self-referential title track (featuring the guitar break from ‘Space Oddity’, and revisiting the “Zane, Zane, Zane, Ouvre le chien” refrain from ‘All the Madmen’) and theme song to the TV series, is as strong a song Bowie had written in a long while. Fine vocal performance throughout revisiting his cockney delivery. 7.0

2. Sex and the Church: Well crafted techno beats with Bowie’s semi-spoken robotic vocal effect and strangled sax, this hypnotic track taps into the vibe laid down on the previous album while pointing towards what was to come with his underrated 90s work. 6.5

3. South Horizon: Lengthy supper-jazz/jazz-ambient/instrumental jazz (take your pick) jam with some interesting bass, intermittent beats, trumpet and Mike Garson’s customary piano flourishes. 5.0

4. The Mysteries: Album sequencing not great (another long instrumental track 7 minutes this one) although this fine instrumental concentrates on mood over melody or structure, and conveys quite a lovely ambience. 7.0

5. Bleed Like a Craze, Dad: This is what I can only describe as disco-rock (if there’s such a genre), it’s the most rocking song on the album with it’s ominous funk and pounding drums. A vocal delivered in rapid staccato bursts on top of bass grooves, Garson piano, and Bowie’s Idiot-esque guitar weaving it all together. 6.5

6. Strangers When We Meet: Magnificent lyric (directed perhaps to a certain ex-wife), understated delivery, and a fine fine track. The masterful refrain of “All your regrets, ride roughshod over me” never fails to send shivers. Bowie liked it so much he recorded it again for his follow up album. 8.0

7. Dead Against It: The Britpop sound is characterised by an onslaught of speedy synth layers and a terrific vocal melody, this enjoyable track is placed perfectly within the track order of the splendid side two. 7.0

8. Untitled No.1: Very impressive track. Dreamy, beautifully paced psych-ballad. A lost gem. 7.5

9. Ian Fish, UK Heir: This Eno-esque ambient instrumental drifts along quietly summoning the melody of the title track. This is very much low-key incidental soundtrack music crafting quite a nice texture with a subtle acoustic guitar. 6.0

10. Buddha of Suburbia: A barely noticeable *shudder* Lenny Kravtiz guitar solo, this is otherwise pretty much identical to the album opener and unnecessary. 5.0


VERDICT: The one that got away. Bowie had begun the slow climb back up to artistic relevance with his second album released in 1993 after the middling success and confusion of Black Tie White Noise, and once again teaming up with multi-instrumentalist Erdal Kizilcay (he and Bowie play virtually every instrument), this turns out to be one of the great “lost” Bowie albums, as it was deleted shortly after it’s release. Recorded in six days, the album was unfairly overlooked upon it’s release, gained little if any promotional press (and not released in the US until 1995) and was also incorrectly labelled as a soundtrack album, which it is not. It does however play like a soundtrack album and a remarkably enjoyable one, if a little incoherent. While no classic, it’s highly underrated and mysterious and roused Bowie from his artistic slumber. Only the title track appears in the TV series, in fact it was a surprise he called it The Buddha of Suburbia at all. I wonder how it would have been received had he called it South Horizon or Strangers and went with the eventual 2007 re-release sleeve rather than the original Jungle Book version?

NEXT: “The music is Outside….”

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