Black Tie White Noise

David Bowie

Savage Records, 1993

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


After his Tin Machine project ran its course, David Bowie promptly resumed his solo career, releasing his first studio album in six long years in 1993 -- Black Tie White Noise. It would have been nice if he had resumed some semblance of quality songwriting while he was at it.

Hooking up once again with producer Nile Rodgers, doubtlessly in order to score another major hit in the vein of Let’s Dance, Black Tie White Noise is an entirely dance oriented effort, with an updated’ 90s sound and production. But make no mistake -- this album fails in every aspect that made Let’s Dance very enjoyable to listen to.


Bowie finds himself once again desperately trying to catch up and adapt to modern times and the sounds of whatever it is that he thought young people were listening to in 1993, and in the process, he forgot to write any songs.

The album is stuffed full of mid-tempo, deep house bass grooves with R&B stylings, polished-yet-generic arrangements, and nonexistent pop hooks. Not even a brief appearance by his old Spiders From Mars guitarist Mick Ronson (shortly before his death) on the Cream cover “I Feel Free” is capable of providing temporary relief from the instantly forgettable quality that drowns the songs here.

In fact, it’s almost as if Bowie had no clue, no plan, no artistic vision for what he wanted to accomplish. It sounds like he had listened to the latest Madonna masterpiece and in a deranged, mad-scientist-eureka-moment, loudly proclaimed: “That’s it! That’s exactly what my new album must sound like!”

To achieve this aim, it sounds like Bowie had Rodgers stock up on the latest computer software and pump out a series of pre-programmed, repetitive loops and sterile beats, which were then adorned with cluttered instrumentation (trumpet solos and other irrelevancy along those lines). Occasionally, sounding like a guest star on his own album, Bowie even awoke from his slumber long enough to stagger over to a microphone to add some bored-sounding vocals that never resemble anything approaching a melody. This stuff really isn’t much different than the typical soft-core porno soundtrack.

I was planning to give this album an F rating, but while Black Tie White Noise is a yet another bad release from Bowie trying to reinvent himself and failing miserably in the process, it really isn’t as revolting as Tonight, Labyrinth, and Never Let Me Down were. In fact, unlike that triptych of trash, when played as disposable background noise it’s harmless and easily ignored. At worst, Black Tie White Noise is the most inconsequential release of David Bowie’s career.

Rating: D-

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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 Savage Records, and is used for informational purposes only.