Review Summary: How the hours do improve…4 of 4 thought this review was well written
David Bowie in the nineties was a startlingly eclectic figure, even by his own standards. Despite the differences in sound that marked each of his albums from the decade, one thing that tied them together was energy. Whether it was the spunky Black Tie White Noise
, the brooding, industrial grind of Outside
, or the 160bmp jungle excursions of Earthling
; each had a common linking factor in the rapid, high-octane sounds they boasted. So as the decade drew to a close, thoughts about Bowie’s next album would surely draw conclusions that it’d be a lively, electronic record, in some form or another. As it turned out, 1999 dictated a different course to be followed than what was expected.
is an album of two halves, most certainly, but its most defining section is the first few songs which see Bowie (along with new song writing partner, Reeves Gabrels) taking a more acoustic, calmly introspective approach. The album’s first side is marked by mellow, singer/songwriter outings backed by lush synthetic orchestration and feathery acoustic guitars, making for a surprisingly refreshing, open and laid back experience. Hours…
tackles the thoughts of an ageing man, looking backwards with an introspective eye and forwards with a subtly optimistic gaze; giving the set an uncharacteristically unguarded feel when coming from an artist famed for his paranoid, complex lyrics.
‘Thursday’s Child’, ‘Seven’ and ‘Survive’ are gorgeous, touching acoustic ballads, and are especially refreshing after the frenetic Earthling
; whilst 'If I’m Dreaming My Life' takes a little longer to unfold, but captures the same pondered poignancy as its predecessors. Because it’s a mellowed-out, slow-burning type of record (or at least its first side is), Hours…
benefits from repeated listens before its mature, sophisticated tones really sink in, to full effect.
The latter tracks take a heavier approach, and whilst they don’t sound as beautiful or lush as the earlier cuts, their riffs and cleverly integrated oriental touches work almost as effectively to seem worthwhile. Highlights on side two include the twitchy ‘What’s Really Happening?’, the gnarled, grinding ‘The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell’ and the album closer, ‘The Dreamers’. The tracks have one or two cluttering touches from time to time, but Tony Visconti’s producer role is still acted solidly throughout.
is a mellow, refreshing and consistent listen. It marks a new level of maturity in Bowie’s writing and carries subtleties that instil pleasantly reminiscent thoughts of earlier days in the chameleon’s lifespan, without ever sounding retro or out of date. It’s not the most thrilling of listens, but Hours
’s subtle and oftentimes beautiful compositions, served as good indicators of the quality of what would come next in a career that spanned over five decades and took as many twists and turns as a theme park rollercoaster.