David Bowie - The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
It was definitely significant insofar as it marked the explosion of David Bowie into pop stardom. Yet I always feel a touch disappointed when I hear this album. I am not sure if it is because I am expecting too much, and therefore get disappointed, or because there is just not that much there. In the end, there is this feeling that there is something missing, albeit something indefinable.
One of the problems I have with it is that it has dated quite seriously. On subsequent albums, Bowie moved much more into a contemporary sound, yet The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was a mixture of seventies innovation and sixties sound. Many of the tracks lack power due to the over reliance on acoustic guitars and it is this more than anything which contributes to the dated sound of the album. But then, it must be seen as a product of its time for it to be placed in any context. This album was issued in the era of moon exploration and the seeming proof this offered of the limitless potential of humanity. Yet, with that came a much darker side. Humanity also had the limitless potential to destroy itself. This dichotomy is apparent throughout the album as, at various times, characters and subjects of songs are about destruction at the apex of achievement: "Five Years" on a global level; "Suffragette City" on a communal level; "Ziggy Stardust" and "Rock and Roll Suicide" on an individual one.
"Starman" was the single taken from it, but that was as much homage to Bowie's then fascination with the concept of alien life as it was with the duality of achievement and catastrophe. Yet if differed from the theme of the album insofar as it offered a hope, even as the world, the city and the individual teetered on the brink of destruction. Other tracks contained more punch. "Suffragette City" is a good up-tempo rocker, while my personal favourite, "It Ain't Easy" obtains that status because it is the one track on the album which could be played anywhere, anytime and not sound as dated as the rest of the album.
This is not a pop album and it is not a pure glam one either, though it is often lumped in with that genre. The album is by an artist in character yet it is not a concept album. There are times when I think this would perhaps have been suitable for a soundtrack, even though some years later the film was made of the album rather than the other way round, so to speak. Perhaps even Bowie himself had visions of this sort of grandeur when he wrote, in the apocalyptic "Five Years" -
"It was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor".
This difficult to pin down quality was, perhaps, the real hallmark of Bowie's career. There is no doubt that Bowie's desire for fame and fortune drove him to adopt whatever musical style he thought would get him there, but there can be no doubt that when he did adopt that style, he did it a lot better than those he imitated.
There are some good tracks on here, but there are some bland ones too. In many ways, the album's reliance on acoustic guitars rather than electric ones perhaps causes me to feel it lacks something which would make me really like it. In my view, this is not as good as Aladdin Sane which followed it. I suppose that is where its true greatness lies. Not so much for what the album has in it, but for the fact that it presaged a lot of greater stuff to come from many others.
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on 2011-02-22 CharlesMartel Said:
Bowie's signature album and the one which would define his career for decades to come. And yet, as a musical experience, I still find it somewhat lacking. But that's just me.