First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2004, Volume 11, #5
Written by John Metzger
Much has been made about the resurrection of David Bowie’s career in the wake of each of his last two releases (Heathen and Reality), but in truth, his return-to-form first took hold within the construction of his 1995 art-theater piece Outside. Reunited with old friend Brian Eno, Bowie was unquestionably rejuvenated, and together the duo unleashed a song cycle that still ranks among their most challenging. Originally designed as the first chapter in a trilogy of albums revolving around fictional detective Nathan Adler (and influenced by the dismembered livestock exhibits of Damien Hirst), Outside featured a convoluted storyline that Bowie never amended, apparently abandoning the concept without providing further definition. Despite this, the collection succeeds in holding its own as an underappreciated, if sometimes jarring, gem.
In short, Outside finds Bowie and Eno updating their atmospheric soundscapes from the ’70s, folding elements of techno, grunge, and industrial electronica into their ambient, avant-garde experiments. The heavy textures cling to songs like Hallo Spaceboy and The Heart’s Filthy Lesson, giving them a deliriously ominous and menacing undercurrent that perfectly meshes with Bowie’s sinister lyrics, which, tied together with the thread of futuristic fear, touch upon his usual themes of life and death, sexuality and spirituality, art and commerce.
Without a doubt, Outside is not an album to be taken lightly, and its complexity yields rewards only after the utmost attention has been paid to its contents. In these strange times when Hollywood storylines come tightly wrapped in a neat, little bow, when commerce frequently triumphs over art, well, this just explains why Outside went out of print almost immediately after its release. The recent reissue offers the public another opportunity to embrace Bowie’s artistry, while adding the U.K. B-side Get Real for good measure.
Of Further Interest...
Outside is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box