David Bowie

Virgin, 1984

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


Allow me to cut the crap – Tonight is nothing short of an unmitigated disaster. Not that that really surprises me, considering how much mediocre music David Bowie created even during the peak of his career. In the past, he was at least able to spread out his lousier songs over the course of many good albums to minimize their notability, but apparently it was only a matter of time before the floodgates would open and allow the raw sewage to collect in one place. Tonight is so bad in fact that I would have to say that it immediately secured itself a place on my Top 10 worst albums ever list. Subjecting myself to this “music” was simply torturous.

One could make the very weak argument that this outcome was the inevitable result of the record label pressuring Bowie to release a new album promptly on the heels of the wildly successful Let’s Dance from the previous year in order to keep the momentum going, and the evidence that Tonight was a rushed affair is found in the fact that out of nine songs, two are covers and two more are re-recorded versions of songs Bowie and Iggy Pop wrote for Pop’s album The Idiot seven years earlier. That still doesn’t excuse this atrocious stink bomb of a record.

I’m seriously considering flagellating myself for the cardinal sin of having sat through this disc. There's nothing here other than one long, excruciatingly lame, ultra-lite synth funk/reggae track under the guise of nine "different" songs. Now, reggae isn't exactly an edgy form of music by any means, but even UB40 would erupt with gales of laughter at my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Bowie's watered down, humiliating, completely out-of-touch attempt at the genre.

All of the songs have really slow, sleepy rhythms as if Bowie were trying to be seductive or something. The last time he tried going that route was nearly a decade earlier on Young Americans with poor results, but Tonight is infinitely worse in every regard. It’s unintentionally hilarious how badly it backfires – he just comes across as a confused, washed-up old fart who once had his savvy finger on the pulse of new musical developments and pop culture trends, but who no longer even knows what audience he's trying to market himself to and thusly winds up alienating everybody imaginable with the utter schlock found here. Very sad to see a downfall of such magnitude in such a short timespan.

Seriously, even Michael Bolton albums have more grit than this. Half the album is over by the time the first "rock" song appears, but it's so disgustingly toothless with its dumbassed riff and processed hair metal solo that you'll be tempted to desperately grab the nearest Styx album to rock out to. I'm honestly mystified as to why Bowie didn't just try to at least continue making the fun, catchy dance pop of Let's Dance.

To be completely fair, the eerie "Loving The Alien" provides a decent listening experience before one realizes that it’s essentially a mash-up of "Ashes To Ashes" with elements of "Let's Dance,, plus additional “inspiration” from Alice Cooper's "Only Women Bleed" and the Psychedelic Furs “Love My Way.”

Even the one big hit from the album, “Blue Jean,” isn’t quite as offensive as the rest of the songs, but that doesn’t prevent it from being a simplistic, droning bore unworthy of even sniffing Ziggy Stardust’s sequined panties.

Bowie can’t even get the covers right! He completely butchers the Beach Boys “God Only Knows” as well as the ‘60s Leiber & Stoller nugget, “I Keep Forgettin’.” Unlistenable tripe. We’re a long way from the days of Pin Ups.

Beset by the absolute worst excesses of ‘80s production techniques, Tonight ceaselessly grates on one’s audio sense like nails on a chalkboard. A stillborn travesty on every imaginable level and an embarrassment for David Bowie on such colossal scale that were he to have any sense whatsoever, he would have the album permanently pulled from store shelves (and digital downloads, these days) and have the master tapes destroyed in order to prevent this sonic plague from ever contaminating the unsuspecting ears of the public ever again. It might prove useful at Guantanamo Bay, however.

Rating: F

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 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.