“The Hearts Filthy Lesson” by David Bowie

David Bowie’s Outside is another of those albums where whether it was a masterpiece or a disaster seems to depend entirely on who you’re asking. This particular song was the album’s first single, and gained a particular degree of notoriety after being used as the credits theme in a cult movie, so it seems a good choice to represent the album as a whole. Bowie’s touring partners when he was promoting this album were Trent Reznor’s Industrial Metal project Nine Inch Nails, and that seems an appropriate choice given that for this album, Bowie let his genre roulette wheel land on a variation on Reznor’s Industrial-based sound. But Bowie’s depth as a musician and the producing contributions of his old collaborator Brian Eno led to a far more complex mix of genres, combining Nine Inch Nails-style Industrial Metal with the Ambient sounds of Bowie and Eno’s classic ‘Berlin Trilogy’ into a kind of ‘Ambient Industrial’ sound. This song doesn’t rock as hard or as loud as Nine Inch Nails’ stuff, but it’s a far deeper and subtler piece of music, as well as vastly more sophisticated, and Bowie’s lyrics certainly put Reznor’s usual melodramatic shock-value whining to shame. One might think of it as Nine Inch Nails for grown-ups, and it would make a particularly good listening choice for anyone who finds Nine Inch Nails’ Industrial sound interesting but has less patience with their sophomoric and adolescent lyrical and dramatic content. In short, once again Bowie proved he could step into almost any genre and do it better than the people who had devoted their careers to it.

Verdict: Good, and in fact much better than most of the more popular acts in the same genre.

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