Monday, September 10, 2018

The Atrocity Circus

Diamond Dogs begins like a creeping sickness. Quickly after recording Pin Ups, Bowie's tribute to the music of his youth, he rented a villa in Italy and began writing songs centering on George Orwell's 1984. One obstacle laid in the way: getting permission from Orwell's widow. She refused to allow Bowie to produce a rock-opera of the novel and left Bowie with a suite of unuseable songs. With that, he reconfigured Orwell's dystopian Oceania into Hunger City, a crumbling post-nuclear metropolis with mutated "peoploids" roaming the city in search of food.  

"Future Legend" is the gothic funhouse intro to the title track, then things get direr (yes, that's a word)... This ain't rock n' roll, after all, this is genocide. "Diamond Dogs" should keep the proles entertained with its rocky swagger (dig that sax). "Sweet Thing" threatens more funhouse as Bowie goths out the lyrics over tender instrumentation. "Candidate" continues the theme but this time over swirly guitar and honky-tonk-lite piano. As the guitar gets more muscular, emulating the civic decay, the listener is faced with a reprise of "Sweet Thing," a gorgeously evil piece of pomp-rock, strutting its way through lyrics of fame and prostitution, gay sex and serial killers, and beyond into territories familiar to the likes of William Burroughs, Dennis Cooper or The Velvet Underground. The music is the sound of a spider web, with rotting remains of the past hanging from crystalized cocoons. Glam gone gorgeously sour, nightmare as beauty. Halfway through the song goes crunch, and some great gnashing grinding guitars come in for the kill. 

From there, "Rebel Rebel" is pure fun, and "Rock N' Roll With Me" is like those false moments in Orwell when people seem "happy." "We Are The Dead" a likable dirge, along the lines of "The Bewley Brothers," then we get funky in "1984," a dark disco trip oozing with Studio 54 at its worst. The bubbly synthwork of "Big Brother" lends itself to its folky-hippy chorus. "Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family” is the LP's send-off, a chorus that while not really a song caps and reverberates the moral decay of Hunger City. Dogs is a beautiful LP with a less than beautiful concept.

That's the nice part. Now for how I really feel: I always find it amazing when some of the greatest works of art receive unwarranted flack due to pretentious asshole(s) who feel inclined to regurgitate inane opinions in an attempt to indoctrinate everyone on what the ultimate paradigm of "noteworthy" art is. FUCK EM!! Dogs is a phenomenal recording that was light years ahead of its time. The Orwellian concept that permeates this album makes it all the more enthralling. 

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