David Bowie By the Threes: A 50-Year Retrospective, Part 2
When we left off Wednesday, David Bowie had reached an unprecedented commercial peak on hit 1983 album Let's Dance. As it turns out, the rest of the '80s and early '90s found the former Thin White Duke largely spinning his wheels.
1993: Bowie Back on Track
During the 1980s, Bowie's fame skyrocketed, but his standing with critics seemed to get worse with each passing year. It hit its nadir with 1987's Never Let Me Down, which Bowie admitted even let him down.
Having approached a dead end with his pop sound, Bowie tried to get back to his roots by forming a band without his name attached, Tin Machine, and recording some pure garage-rock. It failed to excite many, however, because the albums just weren't very good. The band broke up just a few years later.
Without Tin Machine, Bowie decided to return to his solo career and set 1993 aside to do so. Bowie's first record back that year was Black Tie White Noise, but its reception was less than exceptional. Critics and fans were bored of Bowie by '93 and didn't know what to make of his newest record.
Black Tie White Noise is a middling affair, to be sure, but it's not as bad as many at the time felt it was. There are a lot of interesting ideas contained within, in particular on the track "You've Been Around," where Bowie mixes up club-like dance beats with an extremely talented jazz band to create a funky dance number heavily rooted in bebop.
It was a novel idea that Björk would take to its logical conclusion to much acclaim the same year, so why was Bowie hurting for success?
Bowie suspected it was due to his name and his fame. He even released some of his tracks to clubs without his name on them and they became decent hits, proving his suspicions to some extent. Whatever the reason, though, Bowie's true achievement of 1993 would come in the most unexpected way.
Later in the year, Bowie recorded the soundtrack for a little known TV miniseries titled The Buddha of Suburbia. With the soundtrack to the show, Bowie was truly unburdened by the pressure to be commercially successful, and since few would even hear the album, it didn't matter what critics thought either. The result was an experimental, electronic dance album with similar sensibilities to Bowie's late-'70s Berlin era of experimentation.
It is a stunning artistic achievement for someone many had counted out of the game by that point in his career. Unfortunately, it still remains relatively unknown in Bowie's discography. Still, it showed to Bowie devotees who managed to get their hands on a copy that they weren't wrong to stand by their hero.