November 03, 1980 12:00 PM

David Bowie

This release seems to be timed deliberately to remind the world that Bowie, the latest Elephant Man on Broadway, is also still a rock musician par excellence. The album is a complete success. Like Dylan, Bowie has a knack for surrounding himself with top-flight guest sidemen, including, here, guitarist Robert Fripp and The Who’s Pete Townshend. Bowie himself creates some of the richest textures in rock, as he proves again on Teenage Wildlife, Scream like a Baby and the title cut. He can spin out a long intricate melody, as on Ashes to Ashes (which updates the story of his alter ego, Major Tom, begun on Space Oddity). He also knows how to select just the right three or four notes to give a piece of chic funk like Fashion the right gloss. The most spine-tingling effect on the album, though, is probably the Japanese lyrics to It’s No Game (Part 1), translated from Bowie’s English by Hisahi Miura and sung with samurai fierceness (and a dash of desperation) by Michi Hirota. When he screams “Shinbun wa kaki tateru!” and adds a bloodcurdling “ZOWWW!” you get some of the same insight into the Japanese mystique that a week of Shogun brought.

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