Picks and Pans Review: Outside
Too many would-be rock and roll masterpieces are barely comprehensible (or enjoyable) without a lyric sheet or some sort of listener's manual. Anyone tuning in to David Bowie's latest album, his first collaboration with coproducer Brian Eno since 1979's Lodger, may need the latter to unravel its "concept," a millennium murder mystery that finds Bowie playing a heroic sleuth, a 14-year-old girl, a dirty old man and four other assorted weirdos.
If that all seems a bit precious and pretentious, it is. Fortunately these sturdy tunes don't need any convoluted storyline to prop them up; Bowie is back on eccentric musical turf. "The Heart's Filthy Lesson," the album's opening single, bounces about like industrial hip hop on speed, while the title song has all the gothic sweep of such stratospheric Bowie anthems as "Space Oddity" and "Ashes to Ashes." And sounding truly scary, the singer takes a cue from Nine Inch Nails, the special guests on his current U.S. tour, and whips "Hallo Spaceboy" into a riotous frenzy. Such outbursts may be a bit rough on the ears, but then Bowie at his best was never easy listening. (Virgin)