Hours is a very interesting album to review, as the end to Bowie’s output in the 1990’s, and also an album I have never listened to before this retrospective. In November, I listened to an album a day, re-reviewing them in my own mind, in order to make this month-long retrospective, and Hours was a new one for me.
BRILLIANT ADVENTURE: HOURS (1999)
Hours is, sadly, only Okay. Compared to Earthling, it is a much mellower album, sonically and thematically. The heavier rock sound has been ditched with more of an easy listening vibe. Unfortunately, it’s not as good as Earthling. Hours just doesn’t pack as big a punch as Earthling, and ultimately falls flat in delivering a good listening experience. In all, though, this is a crucial transition record, in that Bowie and returning producer Tony Visconti, who had not worked with Bowie since 1979. He didn’t do much in regards to the main production of the album, but as a big part of Bowie’s success, it is great to see him return. Hours delivers a sound which will be built on in future albums, but as the first stage in creating that new sound, it just fails.
There is only one track worth mentioning in this album, and that would have to be The instrumental track Brilliant Adventure. It feels like a piece you would have heard in one of the Berlin era second sides of dark, introspective, and long tracks. This actually comes in at less than two minutes, and its a darn shame. The music has a distinctive oriental vibe, similar to the non-album song, Crystal Japan, though with less synthesiser, and a more natural sound. This track, as the penultimate track, acts as a bridge between the result of the album tracks, and the climax of the album.
Ultimately, the end of Bowie’s 90’s output is a bit of a damp squib, unfortunately. Its a shame, as there were a lot of good ideas in the entire album that could have been worked on to make something brilliant, but it isn’t the worst album. Not at all. In ranking the albums, it would be near the bottom, but compared to Pin Ups and Never Let Me Down, it really isn’t bad. Bowie in the new millennium would not be a damp squib. In fact, Bowie in the 2000’s is a very interesting topic…