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David Bowie - Reality Print E-mail
Tuesday, 16 September 2003
Iso Records/Columbia Records, 2003
| Performance 7 | Sound 7 |

ImageDavid Bowie was the richest performer in the world in 1998, earning more than any other entertainer that year, musical or otherwise. This would seem to suggest that he remained quite popular and influential up through the end of the ‘90s. But what about the new millennium? Bowie’s last album was not a success and while he did have a cameo in “Zoolander,” his musical career seemed to have stagnated over the past four or five years. With Reality, while not his best ever, Bowie indicates that he’s still got it, and he does it by going back to his roots, blending sometimes strange instrumentation and arrangements with straightforward classical rock. Plus, you just can’t escape the dulcet tones that, it seems, will be ever-flowing from the Brit.

“New Killer Star” starts off the album with a weird, shrill backing noise, along with a hypnotic drive to the verses. I really like the choruses because everything that is odd-sounding falls away and the pure rock comes to life. Aspects of this remain in the verses, though you never realized you heard them before, which makes the song better and better as it goes along. “Pablo Picasso” starts off with muted Andalusian Spanish electric guitar, and then moves into some strange electronic sax-sounding riffs. The guitar interludes are really good, if not super complex, and they lead up to a supercool Spanish guitar solo at the end. The guitar sounds odd, as if it is muted or electric, or simply just not the right kind, but again, it’s part of what makes it great. This is Bowie at his best, taking something familiar and tipping it on its head.

Along the subtler avenue, “Days” has a nice tinkling in the background, along with some subtle brass and a tenor sax. It sort of bounces along with an addictive softness to it. “Fall Dog Bombs the Moon” is a wacky title for a song to say the least, which is punctuated by a grinding guitar moving around as the main harmony with Bowie demurely letting the words slide out of his mouth, as if he’s just woken from a restful nap. “Bring Me the Disco King” starts out with a jazzy feel: piano, a brushed snare drum, and a few subtle horns. Bowie’s voice complements the music perfectly, his voice rich and mellow.

At times, the music seems overproduced or just plain, getting away from that experimentation and blending of styles and tones. It gives the album a slightly uneven feel, as there will be two great songs, then two average ones and so on. Then again, I’d always rather have unevenness in an album occur from song to song instead of within each song. Let’s face it, there are very few albums nowadays that don’t have a few tracks we usually skip. In fact, the reason CDs were invented was not for the sound quality, like most people think; it was for the skip button. People got tired of fast-forwarding their cassettes past certain songs and the tape players kept wearing out, so the electronics experts gave us the CD. But I digress. Back to business.

While Reality might not be Ziggy Stardust, it still has much to offer. There seems to be more attention to little musical details on Reality than on Bowie’s previous album, which suffered from a lack of punch. Reality has a lot of Bowie’s flair for interesting sounds and mixed vocals and should do well both with his fans and others who are looking for a little adventure in today’s musical world.

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