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2023 Albums Thing #044- David Bowie “Earthling”

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I have only owned “Earthling” on vinyl for a couple of weeks (a gorgeous Green vinyl limited edition if anyone is interested) but it’s an album I know well as I bought it on CD when it was originally released and I bloody love it. It was Bowie’s first album to be recorded completely digitally (which makes me wanting it on an analogue medium kinda stoopid). I can’t think why I bought it at the time as I really had lost interest in him, as discussed during my musings on “1. Outside”.

“Earthling” should get more love, it is one of Bowie’s very best albums. It wears its influences very obviously (drum and bass in general, Goldie, A Guy Called Gerald, The Prodigy) but this time those influences were already mainstream, Bowie as follower rather than leader. What it does have is some absolutely wonderful songs, the opening “Little Wonder” and it’s furious drum pattern, “Telling Lies” the first song written and recorded for “Earthling” and its first single, “Dead Man Walking”, “Seven Years In Tibet” and “I’m Afraid Of Americans” an outtake from “1. Outside”.

No discussion of “Earthling” would be complete without particular focus on the absolutely incredible “Battle For Britain (The Letter)” which for me is right up there with “Heroes”, “Look Back In Anger” and “Life On Mars ?” among Bowie’s finest songs. There, I’ve said it. Bowie felt it was the the very essence of the album, featuring cut up drum loops alongside live drumming by Zachary Alford. On this song, as on most of the album thankfully, Gabrels worst excesses have been reined in but his big crunching, distorted chords rip through this and Bowie serves up a great, great song discussing his take on nationality (he left Britain for the USA on the Ziggy Stardust tour and never permanently returned). 

“ “Battle for Britain” is another cut-up, but it probably comes from a sense of  “Am I or am I not British?’, an inner war that wages in most expatriates. I’ve not lived in Britain since 1974, but I love the place, and I keep going back”.Bowie, 1997.

I struggle with much of Bowie’s 90’s music (I’m getting there, slowly) but “Earthling” is a fantastic record and I commend it to the house…

Battle For Britain (The Letter) - https://youtu.be/K0suv6Ci-a8

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