First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2004, Volume 11, #8
Written by John Metzger
Over the course of his career, David Bowie has donned many different personas, though there undoubtedly have been moments — particularly throughout the past two decades — when he has seemed uncomfortable embodying a few of these identities. It wasn’t until ‘hours...’, his final outing before the turn of the millennium, that the facade fully faded from view, leaving behind a man who never was more completely himself. Stripped of his many costumed characters, the singer vulnerably stared into the mirrored reflection of his life only to come face-to-face with his own mortality. In short, the genius who penned such masterpieces as Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, and The Man Who Sold the World had settled comfortably into middle age, and he’d finally come to accept himself for the person he always had been.
It’s not surprising, then, that ‘hours...’ drew from the many facets of Bowie’s career. The folk-pop that filled his early albums served as the catalyst for tunes like Survive and Seven; the soulful crooner of Diamond Dogs’ standout track Candidate resurfaced on Something in the Air; and the futuristic spin on glam-rock that graced both Outside and Earthling gave What’s Really Happening? and The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell their electrostatic edge. Even so, ‘hours...’ was far more than a mere waltz through Bowie’s past. As if to emphasize the disconnection between souls that has come hand-in-hand with the digital revolution, each homage was suitably updated with a myriad of frittering electronic flourishes that imitated the blips and beeps of an increasingly computerized world. Meanwhile, Bowie’s pensive lyrics dripped with sorrow and regret, offering a slice of personal introspection as well as a warning to those so wrapped up in their day-to-day affairs that life can slip away without a person ever experiencing the endurance of true love. In other words, ‘hours...’ fused past and future into an intoxicating present while offering a fresh start to one of rock ’n‘ roll’s most consistently intriguing voices. The recent reissue tacks on a pair of re-mixed album tracks (Something in the Air and Survive), a demo rendition of Seven, the version of The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell that appeared in the film Stigmata, and the sturdy, U.K.-only B-side We All Go Through.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box