The thin line between madness and genius… or, holy shit, David Bowie was really fucking crazy.
It’s so sad that this film has been mostly forgotten; it’s the perfect antidote to the conservatism of the John Hughes oeuvre. Plus, Helen Slater is awesome in it.
* I’m reading Bowie in Berlin by Thomas Jerome Seabrook. I’m not sure yet how I feel about this book. It relies almost entirely on recycled information from other sources, but it is quite useful for its intensive focus. It zeros in on Bowie’s Berlin years with an analysis of Bowie’s music and how it was impacted by his personal life and (to a lesser extent) by the location(s) and era. I think I’d enjoy more about the music’s position in relation to the mid/late 70s zeitgeist to balance the focus on the personal life of the creator–something more in the cultural studies realm.
The book spends a lot of time on the innovative production methods and how they went on to influence popular music (I remain amazed at what a huge influence Bowie’s had). The author is a bit of an arty snob, though–I keep imagining how annoying he would be to get into an argument with at a party–but he knows his stuff, and I’m enjoying reading his opinions even if I don’t always agree with him. (His quick dismissal of Ziggy Stardust and his pages of reveries about distorted drum sounds reveal that he’s a completely different type of music fan than I am!)
I don’t think I’ll ever love Low the way I love Station to Station. I respect it immensely as an artistic achievement and I enjoy listening to it, but it doesn’t move me as deeply–maybe my psyche is more attuned to the frantic turmoil of Station to Station than the reflective contemplation of Low. Low is more intellectual, more about atmosphere and mood, more detached. It’s Bowie coming down from the cocaine-fueled insanity of his previous few years, processing it, starting to heal. It’s like a snapshot of a pause, of the period where Bowie took a breath and dealt with himself. It’s fragmented and meandering and often very sad, but with a thread of hope running underneath, an indication that he’s already hit rock bottom and is slowly on his way back up.
It doesn’t help that I’m just so much of a verbal person–the lyrics on Low are incredibly sparse (only half the songs even have English words). I believe people when they tell me that the sound of Low is brilliant, but I don’t fully understand why. I try to listen to the instrumentals and appreciate the textures, the effects, the interactions of the various instruments, but my brain is just not built that way. I can’t focus on an instrumental–no matter how hard I try to force myself to concentrate, I catch myself making a shopping list or worrying about my cat within 30 seconds. To keep the thread, I need words.
And I love the words that are on Low–I love how fragmentary they are and how oddly yet perfectly they interweave with the music. I wouldn’t change anything about this album–I recognize that it’s brilliant–it’s just not brilliant in the way that best draws me personally in.