By 1977, the collaboration between David Bowie and Brian Eno was running out of steam, which is fair enough when the last two years had each produced a genuine masterpiece of ambition and invention. Their final work together, Lodger, a more blurred musical vision than either of the previous two, is seen to represent the duo veering away from each others musical trajectories. After it, Bowie would lunge again at the mainstream, at first cautiously with Scary Monsters, and then without abandon with Let’s Dance. Eno, on the other hand, was busy hitching his wagon to David Byrne’s jerky star, making albums every bit as experimental and impressive as Low and Heroes.
Lodger is indeed noticeably distinct from the duo’s previous efforts. The first track hints at it – an epic ballad, ‘Fantastic Voyage’, is driven entirely by a piano and Bowie’s beautiful vocal, crooning a lyric which has a clear narrative of Cold War-era paranoia (it even contains a clear threat, that Bowie would ‘never sing anything nice again’ if bombs were dropped. The Cold War ended a mere ten years after this song – coincidence?). Its coherence and traditionalism would not have got anywhere near the preceding albums. Nor would the three chart-friendly singles, ‘DJ’, ‘Boys Keep Swinging’, and ‘Look Back in Anger’, all placed next to each other in the centre of the album for ease of picking. And following these, there are simply more songs – no more long ambient tracks of harsh, isolated piano stabs. There are in fact no instrumentals on this album, and without Adrian Belew’s coruscating guitar continually turning songs on their head with layers of noise, it would be Bowie’s most accessible album for some years.
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