I always find aging artists careers very fascinating. Now I'm not talking about people who had hit or two and then made a radical alteration to the new fad to stay in the spotlight, these artists are a dime a dozen (come on we all remember the thug version of MC Hammer, which was just SAD). I'm talking about a true visionary artist who is trying to find a way to fit in to the current musical culture. These albums can often be brilliant (like Bob Dylan's TIME OUT OF MIND) but more often they are train wrecks. Case in point is late era DAVID BOWIE. After spending a good portion of the 80's floundering around looking for commercial viability Bowie hooked up with Trent Reznor and explored his darker side. He also explored the dance and drum n' bass world to try to adapt to his unique style. The resulting album EARTHLING was a intriguing mess. It almost sounds like a Bowie impersonator, and probably would have been more successful if it had been. "Little Wonder" is a generic drum n' bass track not worthy of mention other than it drones on for no real reason for about 6:00. "I'm Afraid Of Americans" is a little more traditional Bowie (and the one truly decent song on the record).
So why waste all this space on a less than stellar record. Because I applaud Bowie (and for that matter other aging artists who continue to tinker) for not settling into a relentless cycle of greatest hits packages (which sadly he has done more of lately) and trying to find new ways to expose people to their music. The nice by-product to this sort of experimentation is that it usually opens new listeners up to the entire artists' catalogue. This can in the end be a good thing. So keep up the mediocre work Mr. Bowie, more people need to hear your best work.
(mp3) David Bowie -- Heroes