In 1979 David Bowie released the overlooked and underrated album Lodger, something of a transitional album between the innovative grandeur of the Brian Eno-collaborated Low and “Heroes??� (both 1977), and the strong creative footing of Scary Monsters (1980). Just about to take on the Australian leg of his wildly successful Stage tour, Bowie sojourned in Switzerland (Lodger was not, as you may have been led to believe recorded in Berlin) with his multi-racial blend of musicians, to push his great art into a challenging new direction. Lodger, with it’s profoundly European sense of pop drama to it’s rhythms and grooves, rewards with repeated listens and is split into two clearly defined sides.
Side One is a worldly travelogue with titles such as Move On, a charming little first-person wanderlust ditty, Fantastic Voyage a political commentary song about nuclear war that showcases Bowie’s rich ever-increasing baritone, and African Night Flight exemplifying Eno’s creative, yet by now, diminishing input. Better still is album highlight Red Sails. A swashbuckling classic and one of the great Bowie songs with it’s buccaneer lyrics, Neu! references and thunderous outro, it’s the epitome of the late 70’s new wave synth sound - a genre that can be attributed to Bowie himself.
Side Two addresses subject matter such as existential decay (DJ) and domestic violence (the queasy Repetition), but also plays like an alternate world’s greatest hits album. Classics Bowie songs such as Look Back in Anger and Boys Keep Swinging develop a mood shift towards a more muscular rock sound and the eclectic brew of violin (ex-Hawkwind Simon House), Adrian Belew’s exciting guitar treatments, and some career-best vocals from Bowie himself, suggest that this was arguably his greatest ever ensemble.
At the time Lodger was unfairly dismissed by the critics, and he was out-Bowied somewhat with the emergence of (at worst) Bowie clones like Gary Numan and (at best) intellectual cutting edge art-rockers Talking Heads, however upon re-examination it is clear Lodger is a daring and original work without a single dud among it’s avant-pop. PB www.noripcord.com