Album time - Hunky Dory
David Bowie's career to date is like a narrative of the latter half of the 20th Century. His work is something that can carry the tag, "Art" without too much effort. He is often described as a "Chameleon" because of a thought of ability to key into the musical environment of the time, but that is to mask the fact that he was always ahead of the game.
When Hunky Dory came out, the themes of homosexuality, transgenderism and commentary upon popular culture (particularly mass media itself) were novel, to say the least. Contrary to what the "swinging sixties" may suggest, these were dark ages for people with alternative sexual orientation and prejudice was everywhere (at least, if you lived outside the West End of London). Hunky Dory is a celebration of the trials and tribulations of being yourself, at all costs. Of course, Bowie was mostly straight and traded on the androgny theme because he was a showman, but if that had been his only strength, I wouldn't be here talking about it.
Hunky Dory was not a turning point for Bowie - the earlier "Man Who Sold the World" achieved that. Neither was it musically innovative - Bowie absorbed and synthesised musical trends rather than be at the forefront of them. What Hunky Dory was, and what it stands out as, is a commentary on metamorphosis; an interface between music and the art world of Lichtenstein, Warhol, Jackson Pollock et al and a paean to mutability. It is a rites of passage work, if ever there was one. This is an album to listen to and enjoy because the songs are catchy, melodic and memorable.
"Life on Mars" does it for me everytime. The words "Mickey Mouse has grown up a Cow" has resonated through the decades as a terse commentary on American decadence, in far less words than Crosby Stills and Nash could ever do it in.
Posted by Wrinkled Weasel on Tuesday, April 11, 2006