Tuesday, December 2, 2014

David Bowie 35: Nothing Has Changed

Celebrating fifty years of media manipulation, the Nothing Has Changed compilations capped a fertile period of activity for David Bowie, in which he got lots of press but only appeared in public via the videos for his well-received The Next Day album. We say “compilations” plural because, in an echo of the Best Of Bowie deluge of a different version appearing depending on what country you bought it in, this new set appeared at least three ways, each with a different cover: a three-CD set in reverse chronological order, a two-CD in forward order, and a two-LP version that jumps all over the place. Besides being a nod to the Changes albums (and song) from the RCA years, when it comes to repackaging, nothing has changed.
To entice the Bowie nut who has everything already, many of the songs appear in various edits or remixes. That’s fine if you want the Pet Shop Boys hijack of “Hallo Spaceboy” or the condensed single of “‘Heroes’”, but Bowie’s propensity to release multiple remixes of the same song makes only slightly more sense than the Stones. (Speaking of which, is there anyone out there who thinks the Jagger duet on “Dancing In The Street” belongs on anything purporting to be his “best”?) Nothing from the Tin Machine era is included, leaving a gap but also keeping the sound consistent between the late ‘80s and the early ‘90s.
With all the repetition, there are some interesting, truly rare tracks. “Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)” is a lengthy croon over an edgy jazz traffic jam, not unlike Elvis Costello’s experiments in the same Herrmannesque territory. Touted as a “brand new song recorded specially” for the set, he needn’t have bothered. Much more exciting are “Let Me Sleep Beside You”, “Your Turn To Drive” and particularly “Shadow Man” from the unreleased Toy album, begging the question of whether that will ever be released on its own. And for those of us who don’t have anything from before “Space Oddity”, a handful of early singles (sorry, no “Laughing Gnome”) enables the selections to span fifty years.
As ever with these things, Nothing Has Changed is a good Bowie set for the newcomer, and frustrating for the longtime fan. But at least the Stones didn’t put out another hits album this year.

David Bowie Nothing Has Changed (2014)—4

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