David Bowie - Let's Dance
Bowie's attempt to bury Major Tom with his previous album made it a necessity that he do something completely different thereafter. In large measure he succeeded, though the album was not without controversy. "China Girl" reignited the controversy over Bowie's supposed racist/Nazi leanings but a considered listen to the track indicates that such a conclusion can only be drawn if one views the track through the prism of prior expectation in the first place.
Many of the tracks are closely linked, in my mind, with the moment - "Modern Love", "Cat People" (soundtrack to the pretentious pseudo-porn-horror movie of the same name) and especially "China Girl" and the title track. All of them were snappy little pop numbers which made a significant departure from the pop norm of the times.
These songs also came at a time when I had just emerged from university onto the dole queues of Thatcher's Britain and these tracks somehow provided an optimistic note, a hope that everything would eventually work out well. When you are on the dole having, as it seemed at the time, wasted three years of your life getting an education nobody wanted, that was a definite plus. At a time when life was hard in the UK unless you were one of the favoured classes, this was a welcome boost to morale and a welcome piece of escapism. That is perhaps one reason why I rate this album as high as I do. Many songs and albums draw their appeal for individuals as a result of their associations with places, people and events, and Let's Dance certainly has that effect on me.
That is not to say the album is flawless, both in concept and execution. For a start, Bowie seems to have discovered (or rediscovered) the drum machine. Now these contraptions have their place, but they are not a substitute for a competent drummer. They are way too limited in their ability to convey flair, passion and style and instead rely heavily on their ability to be perfect electronic metronomes. Trouble is that, after a while, they begin to dull the senses. Too many artists went down the route of bunging in drum machines to replace drummers - a particular flaw of much early eighties pop if I may say - and the result can be overpoweringly boring.
Yet there are also some weaker tracks too and these add to the idea that this album was a work of flawed genius. "Ricochet" is the obvious duffer, though "Without You" is pretty poor as well. These tracks may perhaps be seen, in retrospect, to presage the future decline for there can be no doubt that Bowie seriously lost his way after this. Still, this is a good album, and one of Bowie's better works.
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on 2011-02-22 CharlesMartel Said:
Released at a time in my life when things were very different. This album will always have a place in my heart because of its associations with that time.