David Bowie: Lodger

Rating: 5.0/10
Rated as
: Album
Album Status
: for Fans, of Historical Interest
Released: 1979
Specific Genre: Art Rock
Main Genre: Rock
Undertones
: Art Pop, Worldbeat, New Wave
Label: RCA Victor

1 Fantastic Voyage 2 African Night Flight 3 Move On 4 Yassassin 5 Red Sails 6 D.J. 7 Look Back in Anger 8 Boys Keep Swinging 9 Repetition 10 Red Money

Can you hear it fall? Can you hear it well? Can you hear it at all?

Thus, after all the Berlinnovation that was part neurotic pop overkill and part ambient art rock, Bowie’s back to albums where the single is the best thing about it. With „Look Back in Anger“ being by far the most captivating song on here (if only because it sounds like a left-over from Station to Station), the listener isn’t left with much else to admire. Lodger is an album filled with unwelcome leftovers of an overcharged party: So many quirky worldbeat ideas in the production, so many ways to subvert the usual verse-chorus-structure, just so much of anything: nothing here has a lively spark. This is what you get if you put the two brains inventing the sound of the 1980s in a jar.

Surprisingly, there are two tracks that are blueprints for the sound of Blur. „Boys Keep Swinging“ is the (less exciting, but nonetheless) direct mother of Blur‘s song „M.O.R.“, and the eerie, driven „Repetition“ is like a submerdged sonic blueprint for the whole Parklife album. Bowie’s imprint on Blur is evident elsewhere anyhow, but who would’ve thought that of all his albums, this is the one Albarn had on the top shelf. Odd. This makes it an essential purchase for historically interested Blur fans like me. [Afterthought: It’s not as odd as I used to think, Bowie/Eno have now received writing credits after „legal intervention“.]

Bowie is tired on this album and who can blame him after 1977. „Red Money“ is Bowie’s own irritatingly crummy version of the great „Sister Midnight“ he wrote and produced for Iggy Pop. It is basically the intstrumental base track with different lyrics, sounding limp and canned. „Red Sails“ is an inferior Neu! track with Bowie-vocals and less interesting guitars than any Neu! track ever had (hold your horses: I’m not saying Adrian Belew isn’t exciting, he’s one of my favourites. But he’s worse at being Michael Rother than Rother himself). Many things here, including the in a sense exciting and strange worldbeat innovations, simply sound very forced. It is squeezed, pressure-grouted Bowie, so to speak.

Taking a look at the grand scheme of things for a second, one could say that Lodger is the ultimate transition album from the 1970s to the 1980s – in a rather backwards sense: It portrays what didn’t work as well anymore in the 1970s and foreshadows what wouldn’t be that great about the 1980s. Essential for historical reasons.