Album: David Bowie

Reality, ISO / Columbia
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The Independent Culture

Like Bob Dylan, David Bowie seems to have been re-invigorated by a lengthy period with a stable band: Reality appears with almost indecent haste a year after Heathen, and features the same line-up of Gail Ann Dorsey, Mike Garson, Earl Slick, Gerry Leonard and Sterling Campbell. Equally importantly, it also extends Bowie's reunion with co-producer Tony Visconti, who brings a satisfying, chunky solidity to songs such as the title track and "Looking for Water". The single "New Killer Star" opens proceedings on a high note, its rolling riff carrying Bowie's typically urbane form of alienation. With such great lines as "like seeing Jesus on Dateline" and faint echoes of his earlier "TVC15" in the chorus melody, it's head and shoulders above the rest of the album, which swings between the declamatory warnings of "Reality" and "Fall Dog Bombs The Moon", with their references to "tragic youth" and "devil in the marketplace", and the more reflective melancholy of "The Loneliest Guy" and "Bring Me the Disco King". The latter, employing brushed snare and spare jazz piano chords beneath Bowie's musings upon "killing time in the Seventies/ smelling of love in the wet wind", makes for a somewhat draggy conclusion to an album which, for the most part, bears out his assessment of it as "a bit thrusty". Alongside the nine original songs are a couple of covers from Bowie's ongoing, informal extensions of Pin Ups: a ponderous version of George Harrison's "Try Some, Buy Some", and a more persuasive rendition of Jonathan Richman's "Pablo Picasso", to which the band's punchy groove brings momentum.