Outside

David Bowie

Virgin, 1995

http://www.davidbowie.com

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/28/2008

Having rekindled his more experimental spirit with the criminally overlooked The Buddha Of Suburbia after spending a decade enslaved to the commercial trappings of pop stardom, David Bowie, ever the shapeshifter in search of an identity, once again took a stab at a new genre in 1995 with the release of Outside. This time it was dark electronic music with hints of industrial mixed in.

To do this, he recruited Brian Eno for the first time since 1979 when they concluded their masterful “Berlin Trilogy” with the album Lodger (which I personally believe to be the best overall Bowie album).

The question is: were they able to recapture the magic of their halcyon days? I’m afraid that the answer is a resounding no.bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250

That’s not to say that Outside is a lousy album. In fact, it has many great sections that are unfortunately spread out and rarely come together to form a great, cohesive song.

Bowie’s just trying way too hard with this material to jump on the angry youth bandwagon of the mid ‘90s that catapulted acts like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson to massive commercial popularity (see aggressive industrial rock stompers “The Hearts Filthy Lesson” and “Hallo Spaceboy” for evidence), though the bulk of the music seems to have a bit more in common with the pioneering electronic act Front 242 to my ears. Luckily for him though, the disc sounds like his own distinct interpretation instead of a cheap copy.

Filled with unrelentingly bleak electronic instrumentation and a haunting, moody atmosphere throughout, Outside is a commendably ambitious project that’s a bit too serious for its own good. As a concept album, a dark gothic drama (that I doubt anyone will care to pay attention to) lyrically unfolds over the course of the disc’s sprawling nineteen tracks and seventy-four minute running time. Despite the honorable intentions of Bowie and crew, it’s all just way too much, especially the numerous pointless spoken-word segues. There was never a realistic possibility of filling an album full of great songs that’s double the length of his pre-CD era classics, especially not at this later stage of his career.

On the surface, most of the songs appear to be interesting enough, but as they go on, the lack of strong hooks renders them less compelling than first impressions led me to believe. And the purposely quasi-inaccessible nature of the album does nothing to minimize their recall value.

As things stand, Outside regrettably represents a missed opportunity for David Bowie. The music is consistently well crafted and fairly original for the most part, and it’s a welcome attempt to return to his envelope pushing days, but it’s far too similar throughout, which creates a deadening effect. This, coupled with the ridiculous length and overbearing theme, make it a tedious experience to listen to in one go. Had the album been edited down to perhaps 45 minutes of its best material, Outside could have been a minor classic.

Rating: C+

User Rating: A

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Comments

by fooge on August 11, 2008 10:12:47 PM
I'm yet to find anyone that loves this album, but strangely, I do. I can't get enough of it. It's bizzare, full of wierd spoken word tracks and experimental music. But something in it works for me. It's meant to be part one of a 3 part series. I just hope that Bowie and Eno can get together one day to finish the other two albums. Based on the comments that I receive when I listen to it, I probably wouldn't recomend it. But if you enjoy totally fucked up shit, get it and enjoy.

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© 2008 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Virgin, and is used for informational purposes only.