David Bowie
The Buddha of Suburbia


3.5
great

Review

by DoofusWainwright CONTRIBUTOR (62 Reviews)
January 15th, 2016 | 32 replies


Release Date: 1993 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Screaming along in South London

The news of an artist's passing, especially one with as sprawling a discography as Bowie's, can prompt a period of reevaluation and belated exploration; no doubt this soundtrack from '93 has been hiding at the bottom of many a fan's 'to do' list and would appear a prime candidate for posthumous reappraisal. This album is often held up as the moment Bowie turned his back on the commercial approach he'd first embraced at the beginning of the 80's and can be seen as a bridge between the predominantly lumpen 'Black Tie White Noise' and the Eno assisted 'Blade Runner-noir' near classic 'Outside'. If Bowie could ever be accused of being anything close to boring it was on the directionless 'Black Tie White Noise', a release that captured the man sounding uncharacteristically listless; here was an artist in desperate need of a new muse to escape the pressures of releasing yet another traditional album carrying the weight of the Bowie name. It's little wonder the chance to produce music to accompany an offbeat and mildly subversive drama appealed as it offered an opportunity to tinker outside of the usual intense critical glare whilst also offering up a readymade artistic landscape beyond his regular sphere of influences in which to operate.

'The Buddha of Suburbia' by Hanif Kureishi tells the coming of age story of a 17 year old mixed-race English boy who goes through a period of intense spiritual and sexual self discovery in the 1970's; it isn't much of a stretch to see how the themes of prejudice, bisexuality, East and West culture clash and the suburban landscape of 'saarf London' appealed to Bowie. What's interesting here isn't that the project attracted David in the first place but just how much it clearly inspired him once he'd started working on it. This album isn't in fact the actual soundtrack he recorded to accompany the BBC show but rather a set of tracks subsequently recorded to expand on the styles and ideas presented in the original score. Clearly the geography of this world, a place David knew so well, was somewhere he wanted to get lost in a little deeper than his original remit strictly demanded.

The fact that these compositions were 'inspired by' the TV show rather than recorded specifically as soundtrack music certainly strengthens this album's standing as a legitimate Bowie solo album and specifically only the one track remains unaltered from the original unreleased soundtrack, that of course being the all important and dominant titular track. It's an essential Bowie anthem that appropriately marks the return of the barrow boy South London singing accent last heard regularly on 'Hunky Dory', the lyrics layering tongue in cheek innuendos on top of each other reaching a head with the impassioned cry of 'down on my knees in suburbia!'. The sauciness continues on the second cut 'Sex and the Church', a dance pop number that strongly hints that Bowie had likely been listening to the Pet Shop Boys in advance of the 'Hallo Spaceboy' collaboration two years later.

This release is more explicitly linked with it's successor 'Outside' through the seeped-in-nostalgia ballad 'Strangers When We Meet' appearing in a different guise on both albums. The version included here sports a fussier arrangement and plays the part of a mid album driver whereas the better known 'Outside' take adopts the role of palette cleansing curtain closer; which you prefer will most likely boil down to your preference for either the 'Heroes'-y guitar licks of the former or tasteful piano patter of the latter. 'Bleed Like a Craze, Dad' is another highlight with more mockney vocals spouting repetitive cut-up lyrics that name drop the Krays over 'Lodger' throwback riffs. 'Untitled No.1' is more intriguing still, a warm richly multi-layered mix of ambient tones with Bowie repeatedly cooing 'Sleepy Kapoor' like a mantra before asking us to 'fill the cup with our sleepy souls'. The instrumentals that account for three of the songs here are evocative and uniformly excellent, in particular 'South Horizon' stands out through prominently featuring Mike Garson on piano and it serves as a precursor to his many show stealing contributions on 'Outside'; his jazzy explorations here are tellingly interrupted at the 2:30 mark with the introduction of an unexpected robotic sci-fi sample and accompanying drumbeat.

Sometimes it's our greatest strength that we end up neglecting and in Bowie's case there's a suspicion the instincts that served him so well in the 70's had been left to grow blunt in the 80's; 'The Buddha of Suburbia' at times feels like a process of sharpening those instincts again, reawakening the creative fires that had been burning low for nigh on a decade. Of course it goes without saying that this release was never intended to be held up against Bowie's grand artistic statements of the 70's and must instead be judged on its own unique intentions and merits. As such 'The Buddha of Suburbia' should be respected as a quietly impressive 'lost' work, one that with the gift of hindsight can be remembered as acting as herald to Bowie's final artistic chapter. The great man himself was quoted as saying that the album never stood a chance commercially as it 'only got one review...a good one as it happens'; well here rather belatedly is another one of those David. RIP.



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3.2
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Comments:Add a Comment 
DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
January 15th 2016


8478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Just been getting into this for a few days while reflecting on the man's life and music. I remember the show being pretty good as an impressionable teenager too.



And yeah, I have this rated higher than Heroes and Heathen, it's actually very good

Digging: Gong - Flying Teapot

Frippertronics
January 15th 2016


9032 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

fuckin nice one doof

Digging: Ichiko Aoba - ??????

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
January 15th 2016


8478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks Fripp - have you ever seen any of the TV show?

Frippertronics
January 15th 2016


9032 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

never got round to it, bet now is better than never

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
January 15th 2016


8478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Ah sheeet, of course Naveen Andrews went on to play Sayid in Lost



Might try and hunt down a cheap DVD and watch it again

CocioSeize
January 15th 2016


29 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"no doubt this soundtrack album from '93 has been hiding at the bottom of many a fan's 'to do' list and would appear a prime candidate for posthumous reappraisal."

.... That's me.



Done. Was better than expected.





Now lets try to find the courage to listen entirely to Black Tie White Noise in one shot for the first time.

Tunaboy45
January 15th 2016


13306 Comments


Nice review man, pretty overlooked album.

Digging: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
January 15th 2016


8478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Cocio that was quick work lol



Thanks Tuna

Maladjusted
January 15th 2016


117 Comments


I'll give this a listen,nice review

Rowan5215
Contributing Reviewer
January 15th 2016


36376 Comments


Good stuff doof, I'd trim down a couple of those run on sentences though

Bleed Like a Craze goes hard

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
January 16th 2016


8478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Cheers Row, think I've trimmed a couple of the worst offenders

Rowan5215
Contributing Reviewer
January 16th 2016


36376 Comments


"Of course it goes without saying that this release was never intended to be held up against Bowie's grand artistic statements of the 70's, this is a very different animal, but judged on its own intentions and merits it's a quietly impressive 'lost' work; one that, with the gift of hindsight, can be remembered as acting as herald to his final artistic chapter."

is a good example of what I mean, could be broken up p easy

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
January 16th 2016


8478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Argh, yeah I'll work on it

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
January 16th 2016


8478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Finito, it should read all nice now

zakalwe
January 16th 2016


18673 Comments


Nice one doof.
Title track is a blinder, never heard the album. The show was quite a thing back in the day from what I can remember. I watched it for about 5 mins and thought 'nope not for me' I wonder what I'd think now?

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
January 16th 2016


8478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Zak it was a bit rude is all I remember, twisted my mind no doubt

zakalwe
January 16th 2016


18673 Comments


Yeah I'm sure there was a bloke on bloke handjob thrown in there, that's the BBC for you.

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
January 16th 2016


8478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Auntie knows what's good for us, full frontal male nudity and hand jobs all round

zakalwe
January 16th 2016


18673 Comments


Do you remember This Life? I bloody loved that. Ridiculously up its own arse. 90s wankers.

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
January 16th 2016


8478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This Life was essential viewing! Had the Walking Dead dude in it playing an egg



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