Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Classic Album Review: David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972)

There’s an awful lot of David Bowie-related nostalgia doing the rounds at present. There’s the upcoming box-set, Five Years, to look forward to, and there's been a regular stream of reissues over the past few years – most recently (in July) the Let’s Dance album was the latest to receive the deluxe treatment. And of course the phenomenal career-spanning 'David Bowie Is' exhibition (and related documentary film) has kept earth’s very own favourite alien firmly under the spotlight at a number of museums and galleries across the globe since it first opened in London back in 2013.

I'm currently weighing up the pros and cons of whether or not I can sneak across the ditch for a few days to catch that exhibition while it’s still on in Melbourne, but in the meantime I thought I’d add my own little bit of nostalgia by revisiting something from the dark and distant past.

This was not just any old David Bowie album though; this was Bowie in his prime, Bowie in all of his early Seventies glam rock pomp, Bowie at his irresistible best.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was essentially a concept album, as Bowie explored rock stardom and its multitude of pitfalls from the inside out. That doesn’t mean however that it was a meandering sprawling monstrosity of an album, or a bloated mess the like of which was very common when the words “concept” and “Seventies” were paired together.

Nope, Bowie managed to get his message out there directly and concisely, with conviction, and by doing so was able to create an album that not only merited the critical acclaim it received, but one that has (arguably) gone on to help define an era.

While the album was not without its flaws, its simplicity was in many respects its best feature. Nowhere does it stray too far from the prevalent theme of RocknRoll meets hedonism meets excess meets impending doom.

And you’d have to assume on this evidence that Bowie himself once knew a thing or two about those things.

Most of it was straightforward unrepentant rock music, nothing too complicated, some of it a little futurist and spacey in parts, but nothing felt too indulgent when measured against the context of its time.

Not only did it contain three of David Bowie’s all-time best singles in ‘Starman’, ‘Ziggy Stardust’, and ‘Suffragette City’, Ziggy also played host to seminal album cuts such as ‘Five Years’, ‘Moonage Daydream’, and ‘RocknRoll Suicide’.

Bowie would go on to become a major influence across several generations, and this album, along with his chameleon nature, had a fundamental role to play in laying the foundations for the legend he's become.

Your album or "record" collection isn't complete unless it has this one in it.

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