David Bowie
Scary Monsters


4.5
superb

Review

by Major Tom USER (139 Reviews)
August 7th, 2011 | 219 replies


Release Date: 1980 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The same old thing in all new drag?

What a way to enter a decade - with a new album and single that both went #1 in the UK; universal acclaim from the music press, and the privilege of dictating what direction popular music would take next, merely by osmosis. It’s safe to say Scary Monsters is one of Bowie’s finest and well crafted records.

Although it was a conscious return to commerciality, Scary Monsters didn’t ditch its creator’s roots. In fact, it consciously served as the introspective culmination of all of Bowie’s seventies personas and their attached characteristics and styles. Look no further than the cracked clown makeup adorning Bowie’s face on the album cover - a subtle metaphor for the inward gazing, retrospective look at his past guises which flows throughout Scary Monsters.

He visits past characters such as ‘Space Oddity’s isolated protagonist, Major Tom on the album’s most successful and thrilling track, ‘Ashes to Ashes’. It’s a superbly crafted song and clever in every way - from its springy synths and off-kilter rhythm section to Bowie’s smooth vocals, it’s AAA pop song; mostly because of its sublime lyrics which transform a character from 1969 into a recovering junkie from the 80’s - itself a metaphor for the cold turkey coke addict that Bowie was as he entered the decade.

But more than anything, Scary Monsters was a fresh and contemporary record. Bowie dipped his hand into the exclusively British New Romantic movement - which he directly inspired - and borrows their synthesisers and unconventional guitar riffs motif to craft cynical pop moments such as ‘Fashion’ and ‘Because You’re Young’. It’s tracks like the aforementioned that played a large role in blueprinting the ensuing years of British pop music - inspiring the burgeoning new wave/synth-pop explosion whilst remaining part of the zeitgeist themselves.

With the able hands of producer Tony Visconti, the returning Alomar/Davis/Murray rhythm section, Robert Fripp’s stupendous lead work and special guest guitarist, Pete Townshend appearing on one cut; it’s unsurprising that Scary Monsters shapes up as a supremely consistent and well-crafted listen. The album is framed by both parts of the nervous ‘It’s No Game’, and moves through pristine rock tracks, polished pop and poised epics effortlessly, never seeming breakneck or lacking in cohesion.

Quite simply, Scary Monsters is a fantastic album - featuring stellar moments such as the frenetic, childlike nightmare, ‘Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)’, the beautifully constructed ‘Teenage Wildlife’, the glistening ‘Up The Hill Backwards’, and the top class pop delights of ‘Fashion’ and ‘Ashes to Ashes’. At the time of its release it was fresh and exciting, and fortunately the years have done little to erode such sentiments. Scary Monsters would be the last classic album Bowie would release for a number of years, leaving one with a bitter final thought: if only the rest of the chameleon’s eighties material was as golden as this…



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user ratings (770)
Chart.
4.2
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
NocteDominum
August 7th 2011


7314 Comments


Good review man, do you do many negative reviews at all? You seem a positive sort of fellow. Pos

Tom93M
August 7th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks. Ha, just wait until i get further into 80s Bowie...

NocteDominum
August 7th 2011


7314 Comments


Look forward to it lol

Kaleid
August 7th 2011


735 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah, this is the last Bowie album that's just superb from beginning to end. It all starts going wrong after this, although his last two were pretty good.



Have you heard Crystal Japan? It was the b-side to Up The Hill Backwards, it's quite a cool instrumental, I would have liked to have seen it make the album.

Tom93M
August 7th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Yeah i love Crystal Japan, man, but i couldn't see where it'd fit in the album.



Edit: WTF! Only posted this a couple of hours ago and its near the bottom of the list! Hate when Sputnik is super-busy : (

omnipanzer
August 7th 2011


21816 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Another great album and another great review Tom. Special mention to It's No Game Pt. 1, it's one of my favorites on here. All the others you mentioned are noteworthy as well. Ashes to Ashes is one of my personal favorites from his discog.

Tom93M
August 7th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Cheers, 'panzer. Ashes to Ashes is one of my favourites too - love the "you better not mess with major tom" bit especially.

Acanthus
August 7th 2011


9812 Comments


It seems like a lot of people reviewed things today; two Bowie reviews and a track-by-track of The Cure...

Luckily Tom you reviews are far far superior!

Tom93M
August 7th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks, man - people are stepping on my turf!!

NocteDominum
August 7th 2011


7314 Comments


Edit: WTF! Only posted this a couple of hours ago and its near the bottom of the list! Hate when Sputnik is super-busy : (

yeah happened the other day too, i think i was off the front page in like two hours. Luckily i now have a big section right at the top (first and last time probably)




Tom93M
August 7th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Congrats on the feature. Doubt i'd ever get featured or be made contributor because of the stuff i review.

NocteDominum
August 7th 2011


7314 Comments


Well i figure it will be a long time between drinks for me, so i might as well lick the glass dry lol.

Tom93M
August 7th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

You never know man - there's every possibility that you'll get featured again soon so long as you don't review stuff that's 30 odd years old like i do!

NocteDominum
August 7th 2011


7314 Comments


I'd like to see you have that contributer tag next to your name you can be the "i review stuff that's 30+ years old contrib".

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
August 7th 2011


55290 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

And Nice Sprites

Digging: Phoebe Bridgers - Stranger in the Alps

AggravatedYeti
August 7th 2011


7684 Comments


I need to hear this album again. even more so now.

Tom93M
August 7th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I'd like that, ipod!

NocteDominum
August 7th 2011


7314 Comments


you could always put in an application saying that's your specialty, see what happens : ]

tommygun
January 6th 2013


26687 Comments


fuckin rules

Chortles
January 6th 2013


20729 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Brings the fripp

Digging: DJ Rashad - Just A Taste



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