Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
The last album in Bowie’s magical seventies streak, Scary Monsters doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s a fine summation of his late seventies oeuvre, more commercial and accessible than anything he’d released since his glam days. With Eno not involved, there’s less sonic experimentation than before, and it’s much more song oriented. Despite this, it still fits into the vein of his previous few releases, with the rhythm section of Alomar, Murray and Davis still intact, and Robert Fripp and Roy Bittan returning to the fold. The first side might be the best half LP of Bowie’s career, with three terrific singles all following each other, and if the second side suffers in comparison, it’s solid Bowie nonetheless.
The competition for best song is a close race between the ‘Space Oddity’ sequel ‘Ashes To Ashes’, the ‘Fame’ sequel ‘Fashion’, and the Fripp-dominated title track, while the bouncy piano vamp of ‘Up The Hill Backwards’ is one of Bowie’s best album cuts and opening ‘It’s No Game (Part 1)’ has enthralling Japanese backing vocals and a notably histrionic Bowie vocal performance. Side two is less dynamic, but still features one of Bowie’s best covers, a take on Tom Verlaine’s ‘Kingdom Come’, as well as a guest appearance from Pete Townsend on ‘When You’re Young’, and the most notable flaw is the overlong ‘Teenage Wildlife’.
If you’ve heard the preceding records there’s little that’s revolutionary on Scary Monsters, and it’s not quite as major a statement as epochal records like Low were, but it’s a fine culmination of Bowie’s late 1970s experimentation.