Are You Feeling Low? - David Bowie's | Teen Ink

Are You Feeling Low? - David Bowie's

August 2, 2021
By AIDENBB SILVER, Delray Beach, Florida
AIDENBB SILVER, Delray Beach, Florida
7 articles 10 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
" People call these things imperfections, but they're not, that's the good stuff." -Sean McGuire (Robin Williams)


I think we all hear Bowie before we ‘hear’ Bowie. The hits: Changes, Moonage Daydream, Space Oddity. We all hear these great songs and we admire the great pop songwriting that Bowie displays. We all hear the charismatic character (whomever he chose to be at that time), we love the catchiness, the great playing. But as we, as I was really getting into Bowie I began to hear the actor, the musician, the man behind the art that has always worn himself on his sleeve; not in a superficial way but an honest one. 


It goes without question that The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust is his most flamboyant work. It’s a broadway play as much as it is an LP, Bowie paints himself as a flashy guitar rocker from the future, and an androgynous slayer whose gonna slay the guitar like no other before. Possibly like no one ever to be, as there is this oncoming apocalypse soon to wipe it all away. If Ziggy was living in this pre-apocalyptic world on the brink of disaster, the David whose mindset formed Low was after, and now he’s drowning in the sink.


What’s the sink? It’s some murky clouded pool, some dismal place to wash your face while not washing it, some disaster-soaked marble space where you can put your hands in, then go your limbs, then goes your head, torso, waist, legs, sinking, sinking until your low. Hints the name right, Low. If Ziggy was stars like fireworks bursting in the air, Low is the bits and pieces shimmering beyond the horizon, blending into the black. And that's why I love this album. 


I will admit, you first put on this 11 track record and it may not seem like it’s the case. Speed of Life, well has some speed. As does the whole first side frankly. But depression, hurt, addiction, these things don't stop your life, merely alter it. So although Low dabbles in post-punk with its groovy, strong baselines and driving drums, it is saturated in bitterness. It’s a big change from the early 70s Bowie sound, not glammy. Its Station to Station Bowie, its Heroes Bowie. Anxious, nocturnal electronics bleeping and blooping, David Bowie frantically saying very longing, cold lyrics; we’re in the sink alright.  


On the second track, Breaking Glass, it seems he’s physically having a breakdown. Breaking glass, drawing something he doesn’t want his woman to see. When I think of why he’s breaking the glass in particular, it’s because he’s not happy with what he sees, the person he is. The final lyrics are “You're such a wonderful person, But you got problems, I'll never touch you.” This likely could be him speaking from the woman’s perspective, but also could be him talking to himself in the mirror, conflicted on whether he loves or hates himself. We see more of this franticness on the next track where he speaks to his personified soul. “I'm just a little bit afraid of you.” The man who always wore himself on his sleeve is now questioning who it is he’s wearing. “Oh, what you going to say? Oh, what are you going to do? Ah, what are you going to be? To the real me.” When David Bowie finds himself, or just when he chooses to be vulnerable and the real him again, what are people going to think? In this song, it seems he’s scared shitless. 


Then we have the greatest traditional song on the album, and one of Bowie’s best it is, ‘Sound and Vision.’ I love this song. He starts it off by contemplating Sound and Vision. Don’t you wonder bout it? I sure do. I think in this instance Bowie is consumed by it, part of this depression is the sound and vision, but it’s also part of his escape from it. Brilliantly he then uses lines describing his room as “electric blue” and the blinds as pale as he drifts into his solitude while looking for inspiration. I often experience this when I try to get things to write. The pressure of making something good is hard, especially when inspiration only naturally comes in spurts, at the least the best sort of inspiration. But then you get that inspiration and you are happier for it. Up until you run out of it that is. 


Now the second side. I’m honestly not gonna talk much about it. It’s something you should listen to, a wordless half that speaks more words than bowie could’ve fit in the time if he had tried. It’s dripping with melancholy, you could fill buckets with it. Tony Visconti and Brian Eno did some fantastic work here in collaboration with Bowie. One thing I will say tho is Subterraneans is a masterpiece. Man oh man is Bowie’s Saxophone is heart-wrenching in the most beautiful way possible. Damn man. And Bowie’s vocals are sprinkled fragments of your broken soul on top of it all. As the record ends look up, look up to the surface of the sink. You won’t see any light coming from the surface, we are far, far too deep. All we can do is what Bowie did, embrace it. 



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