Well, the guy’s been dead for a while, and the music was on there for free, so I decided to get squared away with this Low album that Pitchfork rated the number one LP of the ’70s. Don’t get me wrong, I’d heard “Sound and Vision” before and didn’t find it terrible, and in general I commend Pitchfork’s ’70s list for featuring Sly & the Family Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ on, the first studio recording ever to use a drum machine (predating Krautrock by all of about six months, the way I understand it). Yes, futurism is good.
Is David Bowie FUTURISTIC? Well, yeah, I suppose so, which would make him better than, like, Greta Van Fleet, or The Darkness, or this new J Mascis album. He stuck his neck out in the ’70s with some short songs (an anomaly) and some androgyny (an anomaly at the time which would foretell hair metal, arguably enough). As far as musical influences go he might be a little short (I count Lou Reed and… more Lou Reed) but credit him for giving birth to Mott the Hoople, writing their song “All the Young Dudes,” producing “Lust for Life” and that whole album and then singing “Fame,” a song so annoying that it’s good.
Screeeeech!!! Sorry, I have to take a brief aside from this post and start blabbering diarrheally about R.E.M.’s song “Low,” which is better than David Bowie’s whole catalogue combined. “Low” appears third on Out of Time which is sort of like that weird aunt that knows you too well, knows just when to pinch your cheeks and when not to (yeah right, what aunt knows that), and leaves you feeling that overwhelming sense of cosmic detachment and earth’s core roundness, or something.
The primary driving force behind “Low” is this scintillating Hammond riff which, believe it or not, features only two primary audible notes, and then these amazingly ephemeral, almost computer-sounding background notes which also form part of its hodgepodge as well. The whole thing is delivered with such pinpoint rhythmic precision and climactic synergy that the song is galvanized into this entirely celestial territory which allows it to lord over the rest of the album (give or take some “Half a World away”; “Me in Honey”), the band’s catalogue and pop music as a whole… it’s doing more with less to a spooky and transcendent extent. And indeed, even Stipe’s lyrics, pertaining to ugliness, relationships of wavering adherence and sovereign, oppressive times of day take a back seat to that Hammond delivered by Mike Mills himself, the man, the myth, the legend, the lead singer on “Near Wild Heaven.”
Why is it that I like R.E.M. better than David Bowie? They’re both pretty fa**ot, aren’t they? R.E.M.’s music seems to build to a CLIMAX with greater regularity than that of Bowie’s which, although amusing at times in terms of “Hang on to Yourself” and “Ziggy Stardust” (the song, I mean), more or less amounts to glorified, catchy fast food jingles, albeit not the worst fast food jingles in recorded history.
Ok, here’s something interesting that you might not believe me about: like another mind-bogglingly overrated album, Exile on Main St., Low begins with the exact RIFF from “Brown Sugar,” the initial song on the Stones album prior to Exile and arguably their best, Sticky Fingers. And that’s all I have to say about that right now.