Back from the grave in what seemed to be the death of character, David Bowie walked out of dreams and into reality with his 10th studio record, Station To Station. Directly before his career spanning trilogy known as the Berlin Trilogy, Bowie was shelving his spaceman outfit and picked up the Thin White Duke, the black and white god who marched along checkered linoleum.
As the train begins to pick up steam on the first track “Station to Station,” Bowie is a patient master that lets tension build within the track before finally making a vocal appearance. His performance is necessary as this structured animal that creates behind as a conductor. Not just through his own orchestra of sound, but as a locomotive with momentum behind him. Each instrument collects along as one drawn-out working piece of a machine that finally adorns a metallic face.
As the riff of “Golden Years” becomes more human and less of an expressionist piece, Bowie recruits an assortment of musicians to build a foundation around Station To Station. Watching The Thin White Duke move with his own formation of vocals, tenor and alto saxophone, guitar, a Mellotron (electro-mechanical tape keyboard), and finally a Minimoog (analog synthesizer) to organize his own ensemble. Coming off the last record Young Americans which was a step into the funk direction for Bowie, “Golden Years” sculpts a somewhat disco sound as he runs the spotlight on himself. Almost as if he was a phantom of the performance, Bowie is a beast of ferocity that clashes with the backing vocals where his shrieks and mumbles are two sides of a very golden coin.
Later on Station To Station, the track “Stay” invokes some sense of love in the air that comes from Bowie’s lyrical style. He describes “Life is so vague when it brings someone new. This time tomorrow I’ll know what to do, I know it’s happened to you,” behind this fog of being truly broken. He illustrates regret in his voice that continues until the track ends where the chorus repeats as Bowie howls “Stay this time, I really meant to so bad this time. Because you can never really tell when somebody, wants something or wants to.” He finishes the track by finally letting the instrumental rage off into the clouded smoke, dust settling around until there is no one left on stage.
More of a fractured train ride than a blissful trip through the country, Station To Station is breathtaking but a timid record. Between Bowie’s frantic tone, the instrumental pieces that increase range, and the final moments of the Thin White Duke’s journey. Station To Station is one of the final stops at a dimly lit terminal, just before the break of daylight as it builds and creates this otherworldly arrangement of scenery.