Station to Station – David Bowie

Classic Rock/Funk-Rock

Station to Station is commonly regarded as a rock n’ roll masterpiece. This album is not only one of Bowie’s most unique and adventurous albums but also one of his most fabled. Recorded in 1975, released in 1976 and incredibly fun to listen to in 2017 Station to Station is a product of Bowie during one his most turbulent eras. Station is a consistently shifting, electrifying, and provocative performance fueled by sensational creativity and lots and lots of cocaine. This record transcends generations and is a must own for any rock n’ roll enthusiast.

Station to Station was recorded in Los Angeles during what has been described as a drug fueled psychotic episode. The Thin White Duke was apparently involved in all kinds of weird shit during this time and has little recollection of any of it. I even remember reading that Bowie had absolutely no memory of recording this album. Los Angeles seemed to evoke the most extreme in Bowie and after he left to return to Europe he was quoted as saying that the city should be wiped off the face of the earth. It is both strange and intriguing that such a magnificent piece of music resulted from such chaos.

In musical terms Station to Station is engaging. Racking in at 6 tracks, 38 minutes the album is fairly short with no wasted space. The album constantly changes shape through funky, serenading, and rockin’ refrains. Those who like Bowie at his funkiest will have a lot to enjoy here.

Bowie was really experimental with the recording of Station to Station. This record was produced during the era where Bowie was testing differing electronic elements and instrumental manipulations. Station is heavily synthesized in a way that helped evolve Bowie’s craft at the time and helped usher in a new era for him. Unlike many albums from that time Station to Station in no way sounds archaic. To this day I hear contemporary and ground-breaking music when I listen to Station and I feel that I always will.

The album starts off with the 10 minute title track Station to Station; a segmented track that evolves from experimental noise into funkier and funkier portions. Accompanying Bowie’s outstanding singing are ripping guitar solos, piano glissandos, and grooving basslines. By the end of the song you will most defiantly be playing air drums, guitar or bass so make sure you are aware of your surroundings and try not to hurt anyone.

Track two on the record is a Bowie familiar: Golden Years. What more can I say about Golden Years that has not already been said? It is a song seemingly about focusing on the actual and enjoying the best years of life; who can’t relate to that? Golden Years is yet another soulful jam (full of plenty of whops) and is undoubtedly the biggest hit off this album.

One of my personal favorites off Station is TVC15; a track loaded with swing piano and Elvis-esque vocals. The song was apparently influenced by Iggy Pop’s drug fueled hallucination where he believed that a TV set was attempting to eat his girlfriend. Bowie created the antagonist TCV15 for the track… or I guess you can say that Iggy did technically. Regardless, this track is really fun and I like to think of it as the centerpiece of the album.

Station to Station is a must own for any Bowie enthusiast. This is almost not even worth saying because surely all Bowie enthusiasts already own this record. If you do not, now is a good time to run over to your local record shop and pick one up on vinyl. With Station not only do we get to experience Bowie during one of his craziest time periods but we get a lively and inspired record that will cause you to reflect and dance at the same time; I guess Bowie had a habit of doing that.

See you next week.

Humanz – Gorillaz

Alternative Hip Hop/Electronica

Throughout music history we can identify artists that have emerged to pioneer, shape, and define their musical genres. Any one of us can name a handful of musicians who we feel have made a significant impact on their respective genres. We have the Led Zeppelins and The Rolling Stones of rock, the NWA and Eminems of rap, the Eric Claptons and B.B. Kings of blues and they have all been successful in molding their respective genres into what we know them as today.

Once in a great while a musical act emerges that pushes the boundaries of modern music and successfully melds components of different genres into something completely new and unique. Music that may be hard to fully appreciate at the time comes to fruition and, thanks to the hard work and creativity of a few talented individuals, shifts the musical landscape for good. This is Gorillaz. Who would have thought that after all these years, in the year 2017, they would continue to be pioneers in the musical scene just as they were after their first release back in the early 2000’s?

As many people may already know Gorillaz can be categorized as a “virtual band” given the animated virtual characters (crafted by the talented Jamie Hewlett) that represent the group in place of the actual musicians behind the scenes. This really adds a ton of character to the group and makes for some really fun music videos and live shows. What is even more impressive is Gorillaz historic ability to blend genres of rock, rap, r&b, soul, blues and more into music that sounds not only modern but unexampled. In addition we have seen Gorillaz change their approach to music with each and every album release. Some of this is undoubtedly influenced by the changes in the musical landscape that happen between album releases. In this case it has been a little over seven years since Gorillaz released Plastic Beach. (Edit. Gorillaz did also release The Fall in late 2010, a free album recorded by Albarn on an IPad during his US tour.)

Like Plastic Beach, Humanz, the latest record from Albarn and crew, fuses with the modern musical landscape while still maintaining what makes Gorillaz so unique. Also like Plastic Beach, Humanz is riddled with featured artists on nearly every track. Appearances include Pusha T, Vince Staples, De La Soul, Danny Brown, and Popcaan just to name a few. In many cases the featured artists are the dominant vocal forces on the tracks with Damon Albarn adding the signature Gorillaz vocals.

The music and production are as good as ever thanks to Albarn and crew. The album constantly shifts form with r&b and gospel harmonies giving way to powerful rap performances and electronic beats. Even if two songs on Humanz sound completely different from one another they are all united under Albarn’s powerful vision and message.

The concept for Humanz evolved from Albarn’s vision of the apocalyptic aftermath of a Donald Trump presidency. What is crazy here is that Albarn’s concept came about back in January 2016 when Donald Trump becoming president was still, in most people’s minds, a slim-to-none possibility. This was far before the flood of anti-Trump albums that we experienced at the end of 2016 into the beginning of 2017. What I respect about Albarn’s approach is that he is subtle in his delivery. This is in no way a preachy anti-Trump album but instead a stylized vision of the apocalypse, post-Trump victory. In fact, the album never names or even directly references Trump once. Albarn did this for a few very good reasons that I won’t get into here but you can read about in multiple interviews with him on the internet. In my opinion this approach is refreshing because Albarn’s dissatisfaction with Donald Trump in no way dominates the album but instead was the driving force behind its conception.

Some of my favorite tracks on the album include Saturnz Barz (featuring Popcaan), Ascension (featuring Vince Staples), Charger (featuring Grace Jones), and Let Me Out (featuring Mavis Staples and Pusha T). In addition I really love Danny Brown’s verse at the end of Submission. Is Humanz the best Gorillaz album ever? No, probably not. Is Humanz just as important and impactful as their past releases? Defiantly. What we have here is one of the most electrifying, dark and ominous pieces of work form Albarn and crew so far that still manages to maintain that fun party sound we have all come to expect. I really look forward to the next Gorillaz release. I just hope it does not take another seven years!

See you next week.