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David Bowie, Buddha of Suburbia

CD Review

Originally released in 1993 — though not in the U.S. until 1995, when it was overshadowed by Bowie's drum 'n' bass experiment Outside — as a sound track/companion to the eponymous BBC TV series, Buddha of Suburbia has unjustly flown under the radar ever since. Bowie's 19th studio album, rereleased this month, ranks alongside Heroes and Lodger, if not higher. In the liner notes, Bowie lists the album's influences — ranging from Brian Eno to Richard Strauss — and writes about the six-day creative maelstrom during which Suburbia was written and recorded. "Sometimes I fear the whole world is queer," Bowie sings in the brilliant title track — strange words from the artist formerly known as Ziggy Stardust, yet the song could easily be the creed of disenchanted suburban youth. Musically, Suburbia has more in common with Bowie's Berlin era than his glam-rock phase or more recent years. Instrumental passages are dispersed throughout — the jazzy, free-form "South Horizon" and meditative, synth-heavy "The Mysteries." Bowie is at his songwriting best in "Strangers When We Meet," a song that pairs nostalgic vocals with the lyric "I'm so thankful that we're strangers when we meet." Likewise, Buddha of Suburbia is a pleasantly surprising old/new acquaintance that deserves stranger status no longer.

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