Diamond Dogs

David Bowie

RCA Records, 1974


REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


Diamond Dogs is David Bowie's first release in five years without the Spiders From Mars (ie. Mick Ronson and crew) backup band, which many people claim marks the end of his classic period as a result, though it's hardly noticeable in this case; as far as I'm concerned, there's no big difference in the musicianship.

Supposedly this is a concept album based loosely on George Orwell’s 1984 that encompasses a paranoid vision of the future, which seems to be a favorite clichéd topic for rock stars like Bowie who all think they're sending out a profound message. Despite his ambitions, the album fares similarly as the ones that came before in the sense that this is a strong, yet inconsistent effort with a few great songs and some mediocre ones drowned in hoity-toity lyrics I wouldn't even dream of trying to pay attention to through my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Bowie's mile-thick over-emoting.

Allow me to briefly explain the general style. The title track that opens the album is a soundly bland, almost rednecky rock song that might impress Bob Seger but hardly anyone with taste (ie. myself). "Rock 'N Roll With Me" is a would-be cheesy jock anthem and "Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family" unfortunately does not live up to its fantastic title at all, featuring quite possibly Bowie's most annoying vocal performance ever ("HOO HOO"! "SHAKE IT UP! SHAKE IT UP"!), and more pedestrian guitar riffing.

The "Sweet Thing-Candidate-Sweet Thing (Reprise)" suite is quite good, though a second run through of "Sweet Thing" is redundant if you ask me. Would have made more sense to just include a new song, but if you’re going to repeat yourself, it might as well be the result of a more inspired track, as is the case here.

Fortunately, a trio of amazing songs near the end ultimately saves Diamond Dogs from being a disappointing release. "We Are The Dead" is a slow, bleak track reminiscent of Pink Floyd that perfectly captures the air of hopelessness that Bowie's conceptually aiming for and it's followed up by the excellent "1984," a bizarre concoction that sounds equal parts Isaac Hayes and Uriah Heep to my ears, and ironically is the most dated sounding song on the record – not that that makes me love it any less. "Big Brother" continues the winning streak with an instantly memorable chorus and lots of saxophone blasts!

Obviously this review would be incomplete without mentioning the huge hit, "Rebel Rebel." It's a fantastic song for the first minute or so, but I’ve always found that it wears out its welcome rather quickly because it’s very repetitive. One verse with a catchy vocal and a legendary guitar riff do not make for a complete song.

All in all, Diamond Dogs is a strange release for David Bowie. It was his first effort in several years with a new roster of backing musicians, and by compensating with an ambitious thematic attempt, he bit off more than he could chew; the artistic result is, despite noteworthy strong material, somewhat unsatisfying and would mark the end of the glam phase of his career.

Rating: B-

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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 RCA Records, and is used for informational purposes only.