The story of LOW (1977) is well known. Bowie, trying to rid himself of a cocaine addiction, abandoned Los Angeles, where he had recorded the extremely successful STATION TO STATION (1976) in a drug-induced haze, and retreated to Europe. When Bowie hit a brick wall in production he called Brian Eno, whose DISCREET MUSIC (1975) was a personal favorite, and Eno arrived on the Continent with his EMS suitcase AKS synthesizer and worked his magic. Immersed in the album all week there is of course the obvious. The first side is composed of pop songs ("Be My Wife" is the best of the bunch) with a New Wave vibe, something that must have sounded unique in January 1977 but today strikes one as fashionably au courant, and a second side of what Christgau derisively referred to as movie music. "Warszawa" does seem like a futuristic avant-garde musical interlude played during the intermission of Hollywood feature in the heyday of the studio system. But my favorite track is the final one, "Subterraneans" which Bowie originally recorded as part of the soundtrack for the Nicolas Roeg film he starred in, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976), but which Roeg spiked in favor of a score written by "Papa" John Phillips, a Hippie founding father.

MICHAEL TAGGART MALONEY's rating:
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