The Year: 1984. The Singer: Bowie


11th May 1974

BOWIE “Diamond Dogs” (RCA APLI 0576, £2.38).

This should be out on May 25 provided Bowie and RCA can iron out the differences over a small matter on the cover in the meantime.
Bowie’s spoken introduction Future Legend sets the scene – a devastated city with “fleas as big as rats,” “rats as big as cats” and “peoploids.” Then comes the title track and it seems as if we’re in for a natural follow-up to “Aladdin Sane” with touches of Watch That Man and not a little Stones influence.
But thereafter the mood changes and it rapidly becomes clear that the only other Bowie album with which this has much in common is the greatly under-rated “Man Who Sold The World.” It’s eerie, bleak, but compelling listening and undeniably brilliant. It contains some of the best music Bowie’s ever written and he’s never been any slouch as a tunesmith. The lyrics too house some great lines.
After Diamond Dogs comes a loosely-knit suite of three songs Sweet Thing, The Candidate and Sweet Thing (Reprise). It embarks in neo-Brel style before veering off in a more whimsical direction and returning with Bowie working right at the top of his range. All very strange and disquieting. Rebel Rebel closes off the side.
The second half is far more immediate, opening with an insidious toe-tapper Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me, perhaps the most obvious choice for a single. If that one lulls you into a false sense of security, the next We Are The Dead snaps you right out of it with cold calm report from beyond The Styx.
Then comes the one that for me is the guvenor of the whole album – 1984. It’s the ultimate in song construction with a shuffling verse complemented by a beautiful chorus – tasteful, classy, seemingly effortless. Big Brother is the production number of the album and, in a way, the twin of its predecessor. Then the work closes with Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family, which returns to the mood created right at the beginning.
Bowie’s contributed more to the instrumentation on the album than past ones and done himself proud. Tony Visconti shares the kudos for production. Despite the excellent contributions of the supporting players on “Diamond Dogs” it remains very much Bowie’s LP and without doubt the finest he’s made so far.

*** F.C.


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