Station To Station

David Bowie

RCA, 1976

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


After his rather surprising sojourn into the world of soul and R&B on his previous album, Young Americans, David Bowie, being the restless artist that he is, once again changed gears for the follow-up, 1976’s Station To Station. Recorded while on a massive cocaine binge (Bowie has even admitted that he has no recollection of recording the album), it is a transitional release that I find a tad frustrating to listen to.

Sounding like an uncomfortable hybrid of the funky sounds of Young Americans and the more experimental, electronic influenced “Berlin trilogy” of albums that would immediately follow, Station To Station finds Bowie sounding confused, searching for that elusive new sound he could claim as his own.

While his past albums were often uneven affairs, this effort provides a more consistent listen but is at the same time rendered somewhat dull, since despite the lack of any awful material, there are no real knockout highlights either. You won’t find the equivalent of a “Space Oddity” or “Life On Mars” here.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The overrated hit single “Golden Years” is inoffensive enough, I suppose, but it just sort of plods along, sounding almost like a repetitive, hookless afterthought, which brings me to my main gripe about the disc -- despite there being only seven songs, none of them are really interesting enough to justify their lengths. There are plenty of good passages to be found sprinkled around, but the sheer amount of unnecessary padding hurts the album significantly.

Take the ten-minute title track for example: it starts off rather promisingly with a moody, haunting first half and then dispenses with that established atmosphere for an up-tempo boogie rock section that is seemingly endless. The similar sort of blues boogie reappears and mars “TVC 15.” I don’t have much patience for such exercises in mediocrity, especially when they border on a mind numbing six-minute runtime.

Faring much better is the funk rocker “Stay,” with its driving bass lines, danceable beats, and sterile background keyboards married to Bowie’s oddly metered, vintage spacey vocal lines.

Speaking of vocals, by the way, Station To Station seems to mark the first appearance of Bowie’s patented croon. For whatever reason, it sounds like he decided to sing an octave lower than he had on previous albums and he sounds so much more natural and smooth doing so. Gone is the sometimes ugly, shrill wail that made some of his older songs a bit challenging to get through for me, and thankfully he would stick with this new approach up to the present.

Showing that his ability to write excellent material had not entirely left him, however, is the presence of two gorgeous, tender, downcast ballads -- “Word On A Wing” and “Wild Is The Wind,” both of which are surely among the finer songs of his considerable output.

It is to Station To Station’s credit that, in the face of its creator’s drug induced meltdown, his stylistic indecision, and the irritatingly excessive running time of all of the songs that it didn’t turn out disastrously. Against the odds, it’s actually surprisingly decent, with occasionally inspired areas that are well worth hearing.

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, and is used for informational purposes only.