Saturday, January 24, 2015
Track of the Week: David Bowie "Always Crashing In The Same Car"
I was watching a documentary about David Bowie last night called Five Years, and I appreciated that it focused primarily on his music (rather than personae), and included a lot of conversation with his musical collaborators. It helped me to realize that after he left his Ziggy identity and the Spiders from Mars band behind, Bowie succeeded because he had such great musicians and producers working with him. Those collaborators came from different places, and the resulting friction really enabled a lot of interesting results. My favorite moment was guitarist Carlos Alomar discussing his frustration with producer Brian Eno's methods, and Eno's admission that at that point in his life he simply hadn't worked with musicians as accomplished as Alomar, and thus was using methods better suited for rudimentary punk rockers than a session man like Alomar.
The results, on albums like Low and Heroes, were amazing. Those two records, though they came out in 1977, still sound fresh and unique. "Always Crashing In The Same Car" is one of my favorites of this era, and it seems especially suited to the bleakness of winter time. It is a lament about making the same mistakes again and again in life, and not being able to break the pattern despite knowing that it exists. Despite the poignant nature of the lyrics, I tend to focus on the shimmery, textured sound of the music. You'd probably never guess that the thudding drums come from a soul/jazz session player like Dennis Davis, but the more I listen to it the more I can hear the subtle feel. The guitars are layered and trade feeling for heroics, acting much the same as the synthesizers beneath them.
It's less a song than a peak in Bowie's damaged psyche at the time, making it all the more powerful. Another thing I noticed in the documentary was that Bowie's practice of emodying a character took a hiatus in his Berlin period. The reason that I like his work at that time above all others may very well be that he was not trying to play a different person, but to actually dig a little deeper within himself. I don't think Bowie was ever more vulnerable and real than on this track.