LASTING IMPACT: David Bowie

by Matt Beinart / The Diamondback

6th March 2013

To capture the enigmatic spirit of David Bowie is a near-impossible task. From the androgynous alien days of Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane to the cocaine-fueled, “blue-eyed soul” of the Thin White Duke persona, Bowie has made a career out of avoiding the sort of pigeonholing and monotony that swallowed up many of his contemporaries late in their careers.

What makes discovering David Bowie’s discography such a profound journey is experiencing the sheer number of genres and styles firsthand. Starting from his doe-eyed, astral folk days, Bowie seemed to leap from sound to sound on a whim. Rather than simply embracing any one popular trend of the time, he immersed himself in all aspects of performance, from presentation to instrumentation.

From his earliest forays into glam rock, Bowie seemed to embrace the sort of auteur-attitude that immediately set him apart from his peers. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, in the hands of most early ’70s artists, would have come off as a cheap publicity stunt and a half-baked rock opera. For Bowie, however, the sincerity he put into committing to character resulted in a work of pure brilliance, combining elements of space rock and folk pop.

While all the characters and makeup were less prevalent as Bowie entered his Young Americans “plastic soul” phase, the ingenuity was certainly still evident. His underrated musicianship in conjunction with his lyrical prowess allowed a consistent stream of album releases that culminated in his excellent “Berlin Trilogy.”

Released from 1977 to 1979, Bowie’s Low, “Heroes” and Lodger albums were revolutionary in combining elements of krautrock, ambient music and art rock into what became the most cerebral works in his discography. Fast-forward 35 years, and the living legend seems to be returning to this same thought-provoking, heady approach that characterized his best material.

Set to release his first full album of new material in nearly 10 years and his 26th overall, Bowie seems to have picked up where he left off. A quick survey of most comeback attempts in recent memory would turn up sour, with acts such as The Rolling Stones getting by merely as a novelty act with their latest record. However, Bowie’s upcoming release, The Next Day, promises to reverse this trend, as it has received rave reviews so far and sees the art-pop legend embracing the same aesthetic used during his famed “Berlin Trilogy.”

Bowie set his precedents from the get-go: Don’t stick to one approach and always be willing to adapt in order to perfect your art. Releasing an album of lackluster songs that felt like leftovers would have never been allowed. Rather, his choice to allot the time to craft a sonically rich record has left Bowie fans with what may be the last chance to appreciate the one and only Thin White Duke.

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