David Bowie, Black Tie White Noise

The new Bowie hit when I was in college. "Jump They Say," they hissed at him, his musical output dwindling, his artistic influence shriveled. "The Wedding" of him and Iman was the last shred of the old Bowie, they gossiped, and there was nothing left in him to pour forth. And they were very wrong, for the new Bowie was very very good. "Jump They Say" is the track that got the most airplay, and deservedly so from its smooth production and solid blend of ambient and dance; ostensibly it was his feelings for his schizophrenic half-brother who committed suicide, but it could just as easily be interpreted as reaction to the demons whispering "has-been" in his ear. A non-trivial amount of instrumental gives the album a symphonic texture ("The Wedding" leading off but also the ominous "Pallas Athena" and "Looking for Lester") as much as the loosened, liberated lyrics of "I Feel Free" and his marital joy in "Miracle Goodnight" provide it uplift. The title track is nothing special and there are possibly more covers than there ought to be, but they are handled as competently as the rest, especially the wonderfully schmaltzy rework of the Morrissey track "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday" which was itself originally a homage to Bowie's Ziggy Stardust. Fresh, fearless and fascinating, this transformational album more than anything proved he could self-reinvent and reboot, thus setting the tone for the personal renaissance that followed. The original CD issue included three bonus tracks, two rather slight remixes of "Jump They Say" and "Pallas Athena," and the whimsical "Lucy Can't Dance" which truly deserved to be on the main album. The later 10th anniversary disc keeps that last but replaces the others with still other alternate remixes, including three different versions of "Jump They Say," two of "Black Tie White Noise" and even an Indonesian version of "Don't Let Me Down & Down." I suppose it's interesting for comparison but it's questionable how much it would be for listening. (Content: mild profanity.)