The last gasp of David Bowie’s glam phase, Diamond Dogs is one of his most conceptually ambitious works. It was originally intended as a musical retelling of George Orwell’s 1984; Bowie failed to obtain permission from the author’s estate for the project, but there are still traces of Orwell’s themes in songs like ‘Big Brother’ and ‘1984’. Even though it’s still glam rock, Diamond Dogs is different from what came before – guitarist Mick Ronson left the band, and Bowie’s the sole guitarist on most tracks. Ronson isn’t missed on the glam ‘Rebel Rebel’, where Bowie pumps out a crisp riff, but as a whole Diamond Dogs is less guitar based, weirder, and more drawn out than his previous glam efforts.
Apart from the glam of ‘Rebel Rebel’, the best tracks are when Bowie’s trying something new; ‘1984’ points the way forward into Bowie’s impending soul phase, while ‘Sweet Thing’ is a weird crooner. Diamond Dogs is one of Bowie’s most polarising efforts – although I take the middle ground, I can see where others could perceive it as a pompous overblown mess or as one of his most interesting and satisfying albums
Diamond Dogs is interesting, but it doesn’t have enough great tunes to rank among his top tier of albums, and it’s not surprising that Bowie explored new sonic territory with his next albums.