Friday, March 27, 2009

David Bowie 8: Diamond Dogs

Bowie’s next concept was killed before it hit the water, and had transformed into his next style by the time it hit the road. Diamond Dogs gets its influence from two literary sources: William Burroughs and George Orwell. The former’s cut-up technique clouds the storyline set up by the latter, but if you can get through the arrangements, there is some amazing music here.
“Future Legend” is an overture of sorts, with scary effects in the background, going right into the pseudo-live “Diamond Dogs”. The delay on the vocals can be something of a headache after six minutes, and it was an odd choice for a single. “Sweet Thing” fades up on a backwards piano chord, and takes a spooky journey into the heart of the city, inspiring some of Bowie’s best vocals. The “Candidate” interlude is listed as its own track, and then it’s back to the rest of “Sweet Thing”. A bastardization of the “Changes” riff stomps all over the cracked sidewalk, and with a twisted guitar thrash “Rebel Rebel” rises out of the murk. This is still a great song, with Bowie nailing that riff all over the place (indeed, he plays all the guitar parts on the entire album) and a great groove. That’s just side one.
Side two is somewhat anticlimactic. “Rock ‘N Roll With Me” is made for the stage, but “We Are The Dead” takes one of the more vivid portions from Orwell’s book and applies the cut-up technique for a continually descending sound. “1984” will always reek of disco thanks to the Shaft-inspired arrangement. “Big Brother” overdoes the Mellotron vocals, but saves the best part for last—the denouement into “The Chant Of The Ever-Circling Skeletal Family”, which is nothing more than a groove cut short by the skipping effect that ends the side.
Diamond Dogs effectively left the glam Ziggy image behind, to the point of ignoring his Christian name, but still reeked of decadence. It’s a dark, difficult but ultimately rewarding album. (Later CD reissues attempted to show the evolution of the songs. The 30th Anniversary Edition is begrudgingly preferred, despite its high price and the fact that a single disc’s worth of music is spread conceptually across two. A few early versions of “Candidate” and the scrapped “Dodo” are featured on that second disc, along with later remixes and an inferior single mix of “Rebel Rebel” that should have stayed buried.)

Bowie Diamond Dogs (1974)—
1990 Rykodisc: same as 1974, plus 2 extra tracks
30th Anniversary Edition: same as 1990, plus 6 extra tracks


  1. Great review, as always; but I don't agree that the US Single Mix should have 'remained buried': it's superb!

  2. Thank you sir! I've heard lots of people say they love that single mix, but I don't get it. The album track has so much punch (and no 'yi-yi's either).