The man of many faces and personas makes a third trip to Matt’s Music Mine with his 11thstudio record, Low.With a standing ovation from critics and music fans alike, David Bowie was able to truly manipulate a sound to become his own. Changing directions with each and every single album, Bowie was a pioneer in the music industry for his bold stance, his unfearful attitude, and the ability to capture an audience with engaging, ahead-of-the-time displays of musical athleticism.
It is shown on the opening track, “Speed of Life” which is entirely instrumental but became iconic for its use of synthetic crashing and cascading chords. This was mainly to a relationship that would develop between Bowie and Brian Eno who himself had worked in the minimalist and ambient styling. This relationship would start to train Bowie in the art of making graceful, but haunting illustrations of the highs and lows of his life and career. In a time where Bowie’s Young American’s was still receiving radio play and being considered one of the best albums of the decade, Bowie instead wanted to entirely flip the script and create something a little less approachable.
Low is split in a near perfect half between ambient tracks that rely on the sense and lack of sustenance or structure. The first half is instead a more narrow blueprint of what Bowie was doing before, but instead relying more on creating these outstanding instrumentals that would boost his vocal performances. The instrumentals on Loware some of Bowie’s best, reflecting on “Sound and Vision”, “Speed of Life”, “Always Crashing in the Same Car” and even “Warszawa” that painted a vivid illustration of Bowie’s time in Berlin. A monumental time in music history, Bowie’s Lowwould become a constant mirror to his English upbringing and his new, more modern German sense.
With a larger focus on destroying the walls of direction, Lowis a collaborative effort that uses Eno, Carlos Alomar, Dennis Davis, George Murray, Ricky Gardiner, and Roy Young as the primary credited musicians. There is also the work of Iggy Pop and Mary Visconti, Eduard Meyer, and even Peter Robinson and Paul Buckmaster as they form the piano and different chord progressions on the later tracks. Bowie who had an arsenal of musicians, directors, producers, and nearly an endless supply of talent at his disposal was able to truly form something that felt groundbreaking with each transitional album.
Seeing Bowie grow even in a modern sense is fascinating, there is something that is so abnormal about seeing an immensely talented performer be able to be so forward-thinking and truly awe-inspiring in each category. Lowis an album that will stand out for being the starting factor in his Berlin trilogy, but for also having some of Bowie’s best songs in his career even in some of his darkest hours.
Amidst the spaced out horns and the sudden vibrancy to make the opening self-titled track for the USELESS EATERS become something physical, there is a level of experimentalism behind the San Francisco group. While staying fairly bare, TEMPORARY MUTILATION is a diverse grouping of sound that reflects well within five total tracks on what it means to re-invent a style of sound.
The USELESS EATERS are approachable through the fuzzed-filter on the record that barely touches thirteen minutes. Opening with a strange arrangement of unclear horns and bass combinations, “Temporary Mutilation” then becomes vivid with the cheerful cling and bounce of xylophone-esque concert bells that add this odd sense of childlike wonder to the sound. The guitars and vocals which are played by Seth Sutton have him describing the mundane 9-5 workings of a draining job, “Clock in, clock out, show me what you gotta do. Clock in, knocked out.”
With a lower-quality recording sound, TEMPORARY MUTILATIONfeels personal and a bit closer, almost as if the band is setting up somewhere for a house show in the basement rather than rocking an arena stage. This could be partially from Kelley Stoltz who was the recording producer for the USELESS EATERS and manipulator of the final sound. It was his over-branching style and ability to form these engaged but shifting entities into one giant continuous mix where the sound is not as close to crisp as it is to relatable.
TEMPORARY MUTILATION is about having fun and trying to separate itself from a specific genre. Genre to the USELESS EATERS is a dead discussion as they use elements of synth pop, punk rock, surf, and just about anything that comes to mind with guitars and percussion. This includes Brendan Hagarty on bass with Miles Luttrell to cover the percussion aspect that has a bigger impact on the sound than the vocalist and guitar combination.
Hearing the bass rumble and the percussion in a blitz on “Car Accident Face,” the track is a much different transition and more of a forward, head-on approach. Creating some chaos behind the sound, USELESS EATERS take the nihilistic lyrics of “I can’t be bothered, I won’t be bothered” to coincide with the more punk styled instrumentation.
Rounding out the sound in a full whirlwind of experimentalism and progressive side, TEMPORARY MUTILATION is one of the records that has a shape-shifting styles. It works in tandem to the tone of the band and of punk influences, but still feels approachable enough to be well-rounded in sound.