In my research for these Bowie theme weeks, Low came up again and again as one of Bowie’s finest albums, often topping critics’ and fans’ personal rankings of his best work. So it was with giddy anticipation that I first listened to this record.
Sadly, it’s the first time in this exercise I came away disappointed. Certainly expectations played a big role in that, but it’s also the fact that more than half of Low‘s running time is made up of instrumental tracks originally written for the soundtrack to The Man Who Fell to Earth. Director Nicolas Roeg decided to go in another direction with the film’s score, and so those ambient soundscapes wound up here. Brian Eno worked on these tracks, and as usual I find that Brian Eno can make anything boring.
The album’s first side is more interesting, with an industrial pop sound that Bowie masters as surely as he did the glam and soul of his earlier albums. The five non-instrumental tracks on Side One are crafty and strangely beautiful in their avant garde way, but they total 14 minutes.
Low is a ground-breaking work of sonic art but it’s the last album of Bowie’s first decade that I’ll reach for.
Don’t you wonder sometimes
‘Bout sound and vision
Blue, blue, electric blue
That’s the colour of my room
Where I will live
Pale blinds drawn all day
Nothing to do, nothing to say
I will sit right down
Waiting for the gift of sound and vision
And I will sing, waiting for the gift of sound and vision
Drifting into my solitude
Over my head