Station To Station

David Bowie

RCA, 1976

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


"It's not the side effects of the cocaine / I'm thinking that it must be love," David Bowie croons on the opening title track, and you wonder if love songs have taken an interesting direction.

The side effects of the drugs apparently led Bowie to change styles and personalities every other year or so, starting with the proto-metallic Man Who Sold the World in 1970, Ziggy Stardust in 1972, Aladdin Sane in 1973, the weirdo from Diamond Dogs in 1975 and then a blue-eyed soul balladeer.

The persona from Young Americans continues here, slightly, as it has now been imbued with a glossy European chill. This would come to the fore on the Berlin Trilogy that followed, but Station to Station is better than all three of those records and one of the best albums of Bowie's career. It remains a fan favorite to this day as well. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This is the disc that establishes Bowie's Thin White Duke persona, which he explores on the 10-minute title tune. A sort of musical counterpart to Kraftwerk, "Station To Station" finds Bowie undergoing a sort of religious trip complete with references to Aleister Crowley and the Stations of the Cross, set to a clanking, electronic rhythm section. About halfway through, the noise stops and turns into a real rock song, with a toe-tapping beat, some excellent bass work and a chugging feel that evokes both the Ziggy glam-rock days and the new Europop. It's cold and terse and grabbing all at once.

Bowie moves into "Golden Years," which sounds like an outtake from the last disc, a sort of Elvis tribute that bops along with some understated guitar and alluring call-and-response vocals, which reach an apex in the chorus when the song stops and Bowie sings down in a descending falsetto. It's a nice way to transition from the opening song.

The other single was "TVC15," a jaunty Iggy Pop song about a girl who was eaten by her television, and it only gets better with age. "Wild is the Wind" is gorgeous, Bowie's voocals going from a distant croon to a heart-rending urgency, reaching a breaking point with the lines "With your kiss my life begins / You're spring to me, all things to me / Don't you know, you're life itself." It could well be his finest moment as a singer.

"Stay" is one of Bowie's better album tracks, led by a twin guitar attack from Carlos Alomar and Earl Slick and a cold, detached sound in both the percussion and Bowie's voice, which sounds more like an observer than a participant. Neither a dance nor a pop song, this is more like neo-funk-rock, like early Chili Peppers meets Kraftwerk. The other song here is less successful but still solid; "Word On A Wing" finds Bowie exploring religion again with words like "Just because I believe don't mean I don't think as well."

Getting past the initial avant-garde European sound is necessary, but do that and you will find one of David Bowie's best works of art.

Rating: A-

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© 2006 Benjamin Ray 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 RCA, and is used for informational purposes only.