David Bowie Memory Palace [part 43]

Does it get any more explicit?

Does it get any more explicit?

2016 [continued]

“Girl Loves Me” was the most deliberately impenetrable track here due to the heavy use of synthetic slanguage. I recognize parts of Nadsat, from Anthony Burgess’ “A Clockwork Orange,” but apparently it’s blurred together with Polari, a British gay [pre-1967] subcultural codespeak derived from a whole ‘nother world of carny talk going back a really long time. Phew! There are many interpretations about what it all means out there. For our purposes, let’s stick to the emotional qualities of the music itself an being the primary message that artist wanted to get across.

The song has an arid, darkly cinematic vibe, with the most prominent bass line on the whole album. Bowie’s backing vocals are at times treated with digital delay or reverb to have them pile up chaotically in the music bed. Squelchy synths figure prominently here to exacerbate the sense of unease as the song continues. The middle eight was deceptive. It seemed as if the song were fading out at the three minute mark, but it doubles back and returns for an extended coda of over a minute in length. Bowie’s lead vocals are notable for his use of Peter Gabriel’s distinctive yelping style that made his third album so delightfully alienating. Coming hot on the heels of the equally disquieting “Sue [Or In A Season of Crime]” the album reached its peak of prickly discomfort here. The path forward would offer what passed for lighter moments on this final transmission of an album.

“Dollar Days” opened with another stab at foley effects to set the song up. It sounds to these ears as if a letter was being written and prepared to mail over the introduction. A communication is being made, and one of an old-fashioned, intimate nature. After all; we did not hear a text being typed on a smartphone or the clatter of keystrokes. The song came as a throwback after all of the sonic adventurism that had taken place in the first five tracks. It sported the fruitiest sax since David Sanborn blew on Young Americans, though the playing here was more clearly informed by jazz. The notes played here were more numerous, yet fleet of foot. Still, in spite of the musicianship that did its level best to disguise its accomplishment, the cut fairly resonated a mid 70s vibe not quite like anything in the Bowie canon. The instrumentation was largely acoustic. Bowie strummed guitar and piano appeared here after being relegated to the closet for much of the preceding album.

Bowie couldn’t stop dropping more telling ambiguities in the lyrics here. “I’m dying to[o]” crops up here in the choruses. And he made a point about voicing a concern with not seeing the English evergreens again. The chord sequence that figured here reminded me of the one in “Neukoln,” from “Heroes.” Bowie sounds like he was on the verge of heartbreak singing this one even with lyrics like “We bitches tear our magazines, Those oligarchs with foaming mouths come now and then.” Still, as the track fades there was an ascending chord as if sunlight was finally about to enter the pre-dawn world that the entire album had until now taken place in.

Next: …Conclusion.

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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1 Response to David Bowie Memory Palace [part 43]

  1. Echorich says:

    Girl Loves Me has come to be a really memorable song for me. I feel it shares a kinship with some of the sounds and vibe on Lodger. The Nadsat is wonderful and makes me think Bowie may have been harking back to his 60’s upbringing in Brixton as much as the influence of Anthony Burgess. Girl Loves Me points to the fact that Bowie, even nearing an end, had many ideas ready to try and to execute.
    Dollars Days is sweeping and epic. Filled with memories of England, and warnings of for the future, Bowie seems to be singing to his children, if not the generations he would leave behind.


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