David Bowie
Diamond Dogs


4.0
excellent

Review

by Major Tom CONTRIBUTOR (139 Reviews)
August 1st, 2011 | 35 replies


Release Date: 1974 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The howl of Halloween Jack.

Diamond Dogs is one of the most important albums David Bowie ever released. It captures him at a rather tangled transitional phase - battling with the glam rock splendour of the past, whilst sowing the tentative soul seeds of the future; of which, would come to dominate Young Americans the following year. Because of its awkward position, Diamond Dogs is album of many contractions; featuring some of Bowie’s finest moments, but at the cost of a disconcerting listening experience for the consumer.

It’s all rather muddled. It’s a loose concept album based on George Orwell’s seminal 1984, but said concept falls apart quickly, and is presented in such a fragmented manner that it loses cohesion. Similarly, the music is just as divided, featuring traces of glam set appositionally against funky moments, making for a rather eclectic mix. Yet somehow it all works - the messiness and boiling pot of ideas begins to take shape after one takes sufficient time to make sense of it all, and that‘s when Diamond Dogs starts to form as a flawed, but wholly intriguing picture.

Bowie committed to a massive decision in choosing to sack the Spiders from Mars band, opting to play guitar and produce himself. In hindsight, it was perhaps a poor and hasty decision, as the absence of Mick Ronson’s phenomenal guitar work is simply a tragedy, no matter how satisfying Bowie’s riffs are on tracks such as ‘Rebel Rebel’. It also serves as a huge indicator of his desire to move from glam into pastures new, and as such, at certain points on Diamond Dogs, one begins to see the cracks in Bowie’s will to rock n roll.

Further evidence of the transition from rocker to plastic soul man is captured in the superb ‘1984’. Featuring a slippery funk groove and fantastic vocals; its lyrics manage to re-focus the Orwellian narrative, serving as the most clear expression of the album’s supposed concept. Speaking of the 1984 concept; it’s satisfying to know that Bowie used it as a springboard rather than a prop. Although it has a heavy and bleakly Orwellian tone throughout, the lyrics on Diamond Dogs explore Bowie’s own ideas of post-apocalyptic existence. ‘Future Legend’ sets the scene, with its references to the fictitious and frankly nightmarish ‘Hunger City’, with its ‘Diamond Dogs’ inhabitants - a pack of scavenging caricatures, underpinning the paranoia and violent, drug-riddled fantasies explored throughout.

The composition process was also a crucial step in Bowie’s artistic evolution. It was around this period that Bowie began abusing cocaine to such an extent that his colleagues became worried about his declining physicality and wild personality swings. Reports surfaced of his obsessive, control-freak nature in the studio, where he would scream at those who attempted to speak whilst he was working. It was also the first time he heavily experimented with the ‘cut-up’ writing technique famously deployed by author William Burroughs - a creative process Bowie would return to throughout his career.

Despite the difficulty of transition and Bowie’s recent lifestyle and career choices, Diamond Dogs boasts some cracking moments. ‘Rebel Rebel’ is a sharp and swaggering rock classic, whilst the title-track opens to one of the genre’s most iconic lines: “This ain’t rock ‘n’ roll / This is genocide!”. ‘1984’ and ‘Big Brother’ explore the album’s concept further - the former featuring a nihilistic tale buoyed by a splendid funk groove, whilst the latter bares witness to Bowie’s first stab at the plangent basso profundo vocal style; which he also deploys on the intertwined trio of ‘Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (reprise)’ - each booming with gothic splendour and despondence.

Diamond Dogs is a messy, conflicting concept marked by a tenuous transition from glam rock to plastic soul, and that’s precisely why it was such a crucial and important record in Bowie’s catalogue. It captured an artist mid-evolution, baring witness to his first steps away from the past, and as such, it remains an intriguing listen. An album of many firsts, Diamond Dogs features a small platter of sparkling Bowie classics, and even with its flaws, the overall experience shapes up as a fabulous, nightmarish ride through a grim and terrified vision of a dystopian future. Conclusively, this dog’s howls might not be diamond, but where it matters, they’re most definitely still gold.



Recent reviews by this author
Metronomy Love LettersTemples Sun Structures
Bombay Bicycle Club So Long, See You TomorrowOasis Dig Out Your Soul
Oasis Don't Believe the TruthOasis Heathen Chemistry
user ratings (408)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
Chrisjon89 (4.5)
A cohesive and enjoyable concept album to close Bowie's glam rock phase....

Dylan S. (5)
One of the most memorable and unique albums, created by a man just as memorable....

sadisticmonkey (4)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Acanthus
August 1st 2011


9543 Comments


So this is where the fun way of piecing lyrics together came into play eh? Cool!

Digging: The Knife - Deep Cuts

omnipanzer
August 1st 2011


21621 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think I like this one a little more than you sir.

Digging: We Were Promised Jetpacks - Unravelling

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
August 1st 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Acanthus - Yeah, man. I might be wrong but what he did was approach a subject from three different angles, then cut up what ever he had written, and put them together somehow. The hard part would come in trying to make a cohesive set of lyrics out of the cut up lines, but he managed it superbly here - you wouldn’t know he used cut-up unless you were told.

omnipanzer - I really like this album but i'm happy with the 4. It was just a bit too flawed. Still a great album, though.


Acanthus
August 1st 2011


9543 Comments


It's a really unique approach to be sure, makes his legend a bit larger.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
August 1st 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I agree. Takes some talent to craft a good song out of such an odd creative process.

Acanthus
August 1st 2011


9543 Comments


Indeed, though I'm not sure many others could pull it off let alone do so today.

Tyrael
August 1st 2011


20900 Comments


Great review Tom, it's nice to see you churn out such a high quality review every day

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
August 1st 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Cheers, Tyraelxy, i don't know how i do it!


omnipanzer
August 1st 2011


21621 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"I really like this album but i'm happy with the 4. It was just a bit too flawed. Still a great album, though."

Oh, I agree. As an album it is a disjointed mess but track by track it has some gold in there. I admit my 4.5 is a bit of a fanboy 4.5 but I give it based on specific tracks not the album as a whole. I'm not that much of a purist when it comes to albums unless it is an album that must be listened to as a whole e.g. The Moody Blues - A Question of Balance.

BigHans
August 1st 2011


26454 Comments


HOT TRAMP, I LOVE YOU SOOOOOOOOO

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
August 1st 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

HOT TRAMP, I LOVE YOU SOOOOOOOOO


Hans, i think your face is a mess and if you look closely you'll see that there's a tear in your dress ; )

Jethro42
August 1st 2011


12478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

hu hoh look at my low rating here once again. I have to re-listen to it all.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
August 1st 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I see a patern forming, Jethro ; )

BigHans
August 1st 2011


26454 Comments


lol Tom. Rebel Rebel is one of the best rock songs ever. Havent heard this album though.

omnipanzer
August 1st 2011


21621 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This cover has always weirded me out a bit.

fsharptrit0ne
August 1st 2011


4814 Comments


Great review! This is one of the Bowie albums that I don't listen to that much. But there are some great tracks for sure

You're almost up to the Berlin trilogy =)

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
August 1st 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

That is a mega-weird cover, for sure. I'm assumming you've seen the full fold-out cover with the dogs legs...?

Thanks, fsharptrit0ne, Berlin stuff is going to be interesting to write about because it's probably my favourite period of Bowie's work.


AggravatedYeti
August 1st 2011


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Berlin stuff is going to be interesting to write about because it's probably my favourite period of Bowie's work.

this.

omnipanzer
August 1st 2011


21621 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"I'm assumming you've seen the full fold-out cover with the dogs legs"

Yah lol

Jethro42
August 1st 2011


12478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

hermaphroditus



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy