Vinyl Vlog 049

Vinyl Vlog 049

Sunday, 15 September 2013

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into the Record Store Day-issued “Sue (Or In A Season of Crime) single by David Bowie.

The arc that David Bowie‘s career has appeared to take over the last forty-seven years has been a truly unique one, when you think about it. It could be hypothesized that being a Bowie fan is very, very similar in nature to being a heroin addict: the first hit you took was good – so good that you immediately want more because of the way it made you feel – and you’ll find more, but it’s never enough. Eventually, you’ll have run through all of the singer’s back catalogue in service of your new appetite but, while the old stuff is good, it’s not AS good. The next step is waiting in line anxiously for new music to be parcelled out but, since 1980, the tastes of new music have seemed to grow almost deliberately more hit-and-miss; this dragon is not one easily caught, and the chase is troublesome. The last great, pure hit was Earthling (which came out in 1997) and fans have waited – itching and scratching, needfully – ever since then for something to soothe their tortured bodies so well. Now, finally, David Bowie has given up a proper taste strong enough to make bones melt: it is the limited edition 10-inch single “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” b/w “’Tis A Pity She Was A Whore.” Both sides are made of a fantastic, dearly desired substance, and fans will feel it right away and melt orgasmically while new marks will get hooked with the same kind of ease. One listen does it, guaranteed.

Shivers of anticipation will begin to swell as the orchestra which powers “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” begins and builds quickly to a phenomenal pitch before Bowie himself appears with the words “Sue! I got the job!” and begins pulling the laces together on a new story. On this track, the bracing composition (quick and tidy jazz bass playing, Bowie’s own saxophone, drum improv which plays heavily with the ride cymbal, piano which sounds like Mike Garson’s work and a wall of strings) beautifully paints the backdrop of a bustling urban setting which moves well with the singer, who seems to be relishing in the idea of developing this new scene and set. The possibilities that this backdrop provides will prove to be attractive for listeners too, because while it is not the same as any Bowie has done before, it’s possible to pick out similarities to previous endeavors. As he did several times on albums like Outside, Buddha Of Suburbia, Scary Monsters and Station To Station, Bowie is creating a setting on which he’ll present a grand statement complete with a new character that he’ll inhabit. The bait here, of course, is that this song is very much a preview of coming attractions as a new album hasn’t yet been announced. Even so, “Sue” has a very addictive flavor about it. The melody is wistful but also a little wracked – as though the character fears being swept up and away in events beyond his control – and baits listeners well as the overture and preview of coming events that it is.

If it can be assumed that David Bowie’s character in “Sue” is in danger of being swept up and away by a series of events well beyond his control and “Sue” is intended to set that stage, “’Tis A Pity She Was A Whore”embodies the moment at which everything gets carried away. Listeners will feel their pulses start to race sympathetically as a keyboard and Bowie’s saxophone mimic a hospital heart monitor which is beginning to pick up speed, and the drums in the track get everything about the mix swirling with frenetic/kinetic energy. The tempo of the song reaches a perfectly harrowing rate and Bowie, for his part, disconnects from it and seems to just swim in a euphoric disconnection. He off-handedly mentions physical altercations (“She punched me like a dude”), sex (“Black struck the kiss, she kept my cock”), crime (“She stole my purse”) and social unrest (“This is war”) in a totally disjointed manner, as if in a dream. All these images swirl in circles in a terrifying manner, but the singer remains consistently calm because his disconnection from it all is absolute; the character is lost so deep in the maze that he can’t see over the wall and he has resigned himself to the fact that he must either go along or perish. In that, “’Tis A Pity She Was A Whore” baits listeners even further because it exists in the eye of a perfect storm: they know that nothing outside of it will ever be right or the same again, but the moment that the song represents is perfectly beautiful and pristine – even as portions of the mix clatter around terrifyingly before exploding and collapsing after five minutes.

Hearing “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” and “’Tis A Pity She Was A Whore” would have been enough to hook any longtime fan and leave them excited for the possibility of a new work by David Bowie but, form being what it is, the singer had some time left on the B-side to include more. Instead of giving more away, an abbreviated reprise of “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” appears on the B-side of the single to play almost as a backing track would beneath the credits of a film. While a little superfluous, it is worth pointing out that the shorter length of the song on the B-side really helps to keep the focus of the song, poignant and direct, and it really could easily replace the A-side as an album cut on a full-length, if it came to it. Here, nothing feels lacking at all and, in spite of having already heard it once, listeners will find themselves disinterested in lifting the needle from the vinyl. On albums past, many of the remixes on Bowie’s albums (like Earthling, Outside, Hours… and The Next Day, particularly) have been trifles employed to fill space but, while not essential, the edit of “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime” is a good, extended outro for the experience of this 10” single.

…And after that outro, longtime fans will know that they’ve gotten their first taste of the next great Bowie project to come. As soon as the edit of “Sue” ends, fans will find themselves flipping the record over and starting again without even questioning it; they’ll feel compelled to absorb all they can, dissect the nuances of the songs and see what they can extrapolate from both songs in the way of a dramatic monologue that they can assume will be the framework for a full-length album. They will, in short, be hooked again. Fans will have their taste here, and find their hunger for more renewed, but they won’t care, because it’s [in a trembling, almost proto-orgasmic voice], “Really fucking good.”



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