Rock seemed to be gone for most of the 80’s and the start of the 1990’s, in Bowie’s output. He had recorded 2 albums of what could be considered rock, and 3 non-rock albums. 1995 was about to bring rock ‘n roll back in a big way.
THE MOTEL: 1. OUTSIDE (1995)
1. Outside is the last collaboration between Brian Eno and David Bowie. Both men worked together on the Berlin Trilogy of albums, Low, ‘Heroes’, and Lodger. And their last collaboration is pretty good. It is perhaps one of those albums that a casual listener should be given caution with, as it is really out there, thematically. This is the last concept album of Bowie’s, being about a detective in a post-apocalyptic world where there is a police force to determine what constitutes as art, and what is not art. High concept stuff, really. It does not mean that it is pretentious though. Sometimes, high concept works can be pretentious if done wrong, but if done right, they can be good.
The Motel is my favourite track on the album because it is one of the slower and more melodic pieces. This directly follows Hallo Spaceboy, which is not the dance rock pet shop boys collaboration of the single release, but an epic, 5-minute industrial rock piece. The Motel is a slower paced, and introspective piece, giving us an insight into one of the album’s characters.
The piano is fantastic in this song, and the long opening allows you to relax. You can hear Eno’s influence in this, with sampling very prevalent, and a decent smattering of electronic instruments. You feel like the opening is a 90’s reinterpretation of one of Low’s instrumental, ambient pieces in some places, and that is not a bad thing because those were good. Hearing the inner thoughts of the character through this song is just sublime, as you can hear the character’s dissent for the regime the album describes.
1.Outside is an underrated album in my opinion, but as someone who really likes strange music, I know that some people will be turned off by it. It is a long, very experimental album, and much like the Berlin Trilogy, it does not compromise artistic integrity for commercial prosperity. It is worth giving a chance, I’d suggest listening through it all, but if you are really unsure, I would start by listening to Hallo Spaceboy, or The Motel, as the latter is a great song in its own right, and Hallo Spaceboy because of it being a single. Just note that the single is very different from the album version.
It is a shame though that there were no further collaborations between Bowie and Eno. Both actually over recorded for this album, and there were a lot of things they could have down with this, conceptually. Alice Cooper did this with a sequel to Welcome to My Nightmare. It’s a shame that the themes and story weren’t continued, but I love what we got.