To describe the monumental impact that David Bowie would have on the music industry, within the realm of fashion, inside the boundaries of art, but the consequential developments and influence, would take years. While coming three-years fresh on the terminals of the “Berlin Trilogy,” Bowie stepped into the 1980s with wide eyes, and even stronger ambitions.
His 1980 record would touch streets as the 14th studio record in his discography, Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) issued a new era of stylistic sound and direction for Bowie. The famous video where he dons mime make-up, standing on the banks of the red surfaces of other planets, or his protruding facial features with emphasis on his cheek highlights on the cover work and a shadowy figure in the backdrop. In any rate, Scary Monsters would not be Bowie’s largest selling record in his lifetime, but the album would create a personal connection from the industrial days that headed toward a crisp, more formidable chill of consciousness.
“Silhouettes and shadows watch the revolution,” describes a shouting Bowie over these spacious percussive fills and segues of monologue from a female Japanese vocal performance. The first introduction to Scary Monsters through the tunnel of the first track, “It’s No Game (Part 1)” is incredibly paranoid and has visions of a darkened night sky in a crowded high rise, searchlights all around with the helicopters whirl outside of windows. As the record continues, Bowie has these shrills throughout his voice that becomes more frantic and animalistic as he moves from the Michi Hirota vocal features, to his own words that create a shocking contrast between both performances. In some way, the manic façade is a theme for Scary Monsters that sculpts some of Bowie’s most exhilarating performances.
While the “Berlin Trilogy” of Lodger, Low, and Heroes all used these senses of ambiance and rather abstract ideas to create the storyline, Scary Monsters takes a dive into the avant-garde, while keeping a Bowie master plan pushing the train along. The pacing for the record is incredibly different as Scary Monsters moves in this rushed, then halted motion throughout. As tracks: one, three, five, seven, and nine create the rising action of the storylines where Bowie is at his boiling point. Then on the off-side where the even numbered tracks two-ten are at these low points where the energy is still present, but hits a downbeat.
Some of the higher listed hits of Bowie’s career are in attendance with “Fashion”, “Ashes to Ashes”, and “Kingdom Come” where crowds could gravitate toward the danceable numbers. But the true display of power comes from his anthem “Because You’re Young” that has all the perfect elements of a relatable, but wise installation of captivating youthful voice and faithful instrumentation. The synth keys that perform in the background during the choruses are simply abrasive and can perfectly complement Bowie’s vocals that on their own, are downright gorgeous.
Scary Monsters would come at the beginning of the craze that would be the 1980’s music scene. While most 80’s music is a terrible display in mankind’s history (Bowie couldn’t even escape this within his own career,) there was hope in the form of an alien covering himself in white face paint, red lipstick, and a clown costume that would go on to shift generations years later.