Earthling cd

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i understand the criticism of this disc, but i feel it ignores a simple and slightly intriguing truth: the old man's take on "electronica" is simply more interesting, varied and listenable than the works that are generally associated with the genre and were written by people half his age. this record was written to appeal to the youth-driven "electronica" demographic that was bursting up from underground in the mid-90s. while it is accurately described as a means of exploiting that scene, it is also simply the best mainstream disc of that genre to come out of the time period. if you have to make a choice between picking up this disc, the fat of the land, homework or dig your own hole then you should pick up this one and you won't regret doing so. of course, if you'd prefer music that is more substantial than that then you should really be looking a little bit further under the surface and searching through the warp records catalogue to start off with.

there's a level of historical inevitability attached to this statement. if anybody remembers "electronica" at all two hundred years from now, they're certainly not going to remember it through an act like daft punk, which nobody even remembers in the year 2010. the scene itself is going to be something that will get a page, at the most, in a history text book about popular music in the twentieth century. professors may play a 30-second clip from breathe or firestarter as a means of attempting to get the feeling of the period across, if they don't show the smack my bitch up video as a means of trying to explain the prevalence of narcotics within british techno music. that's all great and well. however, bowie is a guy who is so central to popular culture in the latter half of the twentieth century that his records will be listened to for hundreds of years. students will write essays about him and listen meticulously to his back catalogue. they'll forget the snippet that they heard in class and remember the record written by the icon that they're studying.

the end result is not that david bowie exploited electronica, it's that he invented it. to a certain extent, this is not untrue; while bowie certainly wasn't a guiding influence within the rave movement, when electronic music finally broke into the big time the truth is that it sounded a whole lot like david bowie and that this wasn't accidental because it was marketed by people that used bowie as a benchmark in determining what was marketable and what wasn't and was even targeted towards the same demographic that david bowie records were once targeted towards, albeit a generation removed. while it may be ironic that the bowie clone is a better product than the originals, it's not really surprising; bowie is cloning his own offspring, making the relationship deeply circular and deeply incestuous.

what the aforementioned discs lack that this one has is fourfold: (1) high-end production, (2) half-intelligent lyric and themes, (3) songwriters that understand how to write songs and (4) competent musicianship.

the production asserts itself in various forms but the three most profound ways it's noticeable are within the mastering, the mix and the horizontal layering on the disc. if you're looking for a sequencer repeating over a drum loop for five minutes, you won't find it here; what you will find are interplays between sequenced parts, live guitars, live pianos, live synths and programmed and played drums. if you're looking for a low end that drowns out the rest of the mix, you won't find that either; while there is a focus on the bottom and must be for the genre to work, the entire spectrum is explored.

as for lyrics, bowie was always one of the more intelligent rock stars and, while he doesn't derive any kind of profound theorem on this disc, the lyrics are a little more thought-inducing than the general approach of repeating simplistic one-liners for five minutes that saturates the previously mentioned triad of mainstream 1997 "electronica" discs. that being said, he does fall back to the one-liner in a few tracks and when he does the results are a bit more profound; compare "i don't want knowledge! i want certainty!" with "change my pitch up, smack my bitch up" and there's little room for argument. of course, that particular scene was not about thinking, it was about dancing so to criticize it for what it wasn't is not particularly fair; yet, if you want a reasonable facsimile and find lyrics such as the aforementioned slightly grating then this is the route to take.

the combination of gabrels, plati, dorsey, alford and garson consists solely of classically trained musicians, widely utilized session musicians, producers and visual and audio arts majors. it's a rather strong lineup that adds a very different but far superior organic feel to the "electronica" sound. as one example, there is a piano-driven free jazz breakdown in the third track that does certain things with keyboards and drums that are bluntly outside of the ability of just about anybody working solely in the field of electronic music, with the sole exception of tom jenkinson. the live bassist is a massive upgrade over the kind of bass parts that are generally associated - and, let's be honest, are widely ridiculed - with "electronica". you know what i'm talking about. everybody knows that "setting sun" would have been better with mccartney on bass (why didn't anybody think of that?); he's a pretty big influence on the bass parts on this disc.

while this obviously does not capture the kind of british electronic music that was bursting out of it's seams c. 1997, it does something much better - it improves upon it by converting the sound into a professional product produced by professional musicians. if you're a musician or you just generally prefer produced, elaborate or written music to raw, trendy fads then you'll appreciate my arguments, and if not now then certainly twenty years from now when this is the only one of the four mentioned discs that is still in print.

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