The Little Details In Color

The threat could be nuclear or simply a bomber on horseback but David Bowie will never be fully ready. In the song 'New Killer Star' he intones: "Let's face the music and dance." Perhaps he discovered the stars in his little girl's eyes and hope for the future. Trees and buildings topple to the sidewalks below, consigned to memory. Bowie divulges his ordinariness and proposes a better way - discovering the hope in a child's eyes.

Moving beyond twilight, and the moonlit night to the dawn's early light, Bowie thinks about self-preservation in the song 'Never Get Old.' He's thinking about this and he's thinking about his personal history. The protagonist of 'Never Get Old' concedes: "I'm looking at the future as solid as a rock because of you." He's taking care of his soul because he knows there's never gonna be enough money, drugs, or sex to keep him from getting old and he wants to be around to see his daughter grow up: "I'm awake in an age of light and living here because of you."

Bowie draws up the image of "weeds between buildings," in the song 'The Loneliest Guy.' The main character lives a desolate existence, perhaps, in the aftermath of destruction, in an abandoned city. The bleakness he depicts parallels the song 'Sweet Thing.' Bowie goes on to describe the downward spiral of a sex junkie addicted to internet porn: "Steam under the floor, shards by the mirror's frame." Metaphors that invoke disconnection and sexual detachment. This time, unlike the invigorating "clean air" of 'Never Get Old,' David conjures up "clouds green and low" insinuating the "nauseating green" of one who leads a cloistered, colorless existence. The protagonist, an object of fear and loathing becomes the loneliest guy in the world. Bowie breaks our hearts when his main character self-deceivingly confesses: "I'm the luckiest guy."

Instead of "breathing deeply" like the main actor of 'Never Get Old,' the comic tragedian of 'Looking For Water' can't breathe the air at all. He lost his belief in God and his heart's not in it. This time when he looks into those eyes he is dumbfounded by the lack of sense or feeling that he sees there: "Nothing could be found." "Never means never." "Baby, dumb is forever." Still he seeks to return to the origins of life in the deep, dark water.

We get a snapshot of urban angst in the tradition of 'One Shot' and 'Repetition' in 'She'll Drive The Big Car.' The leading lady is an older woman, sick with fear and cold, lugging her suitcase in the snow to the bus going home, to slip quietly beneath the sheets. A devoted wife, sad, and nervous. David goes on to describe a love that "lies like a dead cloud on a shabby yellow lawn up on Riverside." Her husband had promised her a dream life but took her back to the street life. An uptown girl going down, she'll turn the radio way up high for the station playing sad soul. You get the impression that she's almost ready to drive the big car straight into the Hudson, plunging herself, her husband, and her daughter Jessica to their deaths in the violent water. Voracious and greedy seabirds flying overhead. But throughout the whole ride her eye is on Jessica.

We taste the bitter-sweetness of errors finally learned on 'Days.' The lead acknowledges his need for friendship, his need to be held tightly. He forsakes his lonely existence for the comfort of connection, and confesses his selfishness. With a "sorry soul" and a "brain in tangles" he pleads for a gentle voice to calm the storms pounding through his head and heart. He admits his debt to his beloved, all the days that he owes her, all the days when he gave nothing in return. With little left to finally give, he knocks on her door again.

The corrupt agent of 'Fall Dog Bombs The Moon' has oil on his hands. He's a rich and violent man ready to go nuclear. Cruel and smart, he'll break your heart, never running out of morons to hate. He is, after all, just a dog, a "fall guy" living through the blackest of years. The marketplace is omnipresent but the corporate spin can no longer provide him with enough meaning. There are no more "underground alternatives," no more safe havens. And perhaps after bombing the Earth, the only thing left for him to "blow away" is the Moon.

On 'Reality' David sings: "My sight is failing in this twilight." "Now my death is more than just a sad song." He builds a wall of silence separating him and the tragic youth of today. He still doesn't have the answers, and he realizes that he is back where he started from. The man who screamed "Give me your hands" in that very sad song about suicide now shouts: "Hey boy, welcome to reality."

The album ends with 'Bring Me The Disco King.' David croons: "You promised me the ending would be clear." "Close me in the dark, let me disappear." In the tradition of 'Time' and 'My Death' Bowie brings us a new classic. The images in this song are some of his grimmest. Again as he warned in 'Looking For Water' and 'Days': "I don't know about you." "Soon there will be little or nothing left of me." Perhaps the protagonist is facing his own death, the death of truth, or the darkness of "killing time in the seventies." The lyrics are macabre: "Memories that flutter like bats out of Hell." "Rivers of perfumed limbs." "Those who slept like corpses." The main character of 'Bring Me The Disco King' doesn't really want to know about the invisible (angel or devil) opening that door. He resembles the protagonist of 'Never Get Old' who's screaming that he's gonna be living until the end of time. Even if "the sky splits open to a dull, red skull," he wants to "breathe through the years and dance through the fire."

Nevada Kerr
September 15, 2003.

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