Never Let Me Down

David Bowie

EMI, 1987

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


So, Bowie being the smart guy that he is and keenly in tune with the latest trends and developments in popular music, he followed up the utterly vapid, horrendous Tonight with... a carbon copy.

I don’t mean that the despicable Never Let Me Down is identical to its predecessor musically (though it is similar), but rather the continuing complete lack of ideas and almost insulting presentation.

Whereas Tonight was hurriedly slapped together, what’s the excuse for Never Let Me Down’s overarching wretchedness? Bowie had a full three years -- an ample amount of time to do some soul searching and maybe even come up with a decent song or two, but he didn’t even come close.

Completely melodically devoid and drowning in near asphyxiating, bloated production values that work their hardest to distract your attention away from the fact that there are no good songs, the album, like the last one, is a snapshot of an out-of-touch, once popular and innovative musical icon who has absolutely nothing interesting to say anymore, not even to his fans.

In fact, his skills were so inept at this point that he couldn't even sell out properly. These mid-‘80s albums are nothing but the sounds of Bowie going through the motions, as if he were content to release whatever garbage he shat out as long as it would sell. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Never Let Me Down is nothing but generic, faceless, commercial nonsense of the lowest common denominator, slicker than an oil spill, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t polish a turd into a gem. There is simply no reason for this album to even exist, since Bowie’s personality is nowhere in sight. The cookie-cutter music and arrangements are directly off the shelf and could have been used interchangeably for any one of hundreds of pop stars. I honestly can't even imagine the most foaming-at-the-mouth, rabid Bowie fans finding anything of value here. He sounds tired and bored the whole time.

In past Bowie reviews I mentioned that he occasionally has this really annoying habit of singing in a meandering, seemingly aimless manner through some songs, resulting in a lack of tension build-up and catharsis. As if weren’t already terrible enough, this album is practically full of that stupidity. I spent the first few minutes of every song thinking "Okay, so when will an actual melody show up?", and sadly, they never really do.

Despite the inherent awfulness of these songs and the obnoxiously overbearing, dated production, I would still say that this album is slightly better than Tonight, mainly due to the fact that it has a marginal amount of more grit (though in a really transparent way), energy, and sometimes there are even two-second long flashes of slightly interesting music, only to never be heard again, though that very well could have just been my imagination, clamoring desperately for anything resembling even slightly appealing songwriting.

The sonic equivalent of being force-fed castor oil, Never Let Me Down continues Bowie’s rapid slide into the oblivion of pop irrelevancy. I mean, he didn’t even try – let me leave you with his very own, refreshingly honest thoughts on this phase of his career: “Let's Dance was an excellent album in a certain genre, but the next two albums after that (Tonight and Never Let Me Down) showed that my lack of interest in my own work was really becoming transparent. My nadir was Never Let Me Down. It was such an awful album. I've gotten to a place now where I'm not very judgmental about myself. I put out what I do, whether it's in visual arts or in music, because I know that everything I do is really heartfelt. Even if it's a failure artistically, it doesn't bother me in the same way that Never Let Me Down bothers me. I really shouldn't have even bothered going into the studio to record it. [laughs] In fact, when I play it, I wonder if I did sometimes."

Rating: F

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


I'll take your word for it. I won't be getting this one.

© 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 EMI, and is used for informational purposes only.