Release Date: Oct 12, 2018
Record label: Rhino
The fourth in a series of comprehensive box sets chronicling David Bowie's entire career: Loving the Alien (1983-1988) covers a period that found Bowie at a popular peak yet somewhat creatively adrift. Once Let's Dance went supernova in 1983, as it was designed to do, Bowie's productivity slowed to a crawl: he knocked out the sequel, Tonight, in a year, then took three to deliver Never Let Me Down. By the end of the decade, he rediscovered his muse via the guitar skronk of Tin Machine, but Loving the Alien cuts off with Never Let Me Down, presented both in its original version and in a new incarnation containing tasteful instrumentation recorded in the wake of Bowie's death.
David Bowie's 80s, a decade that started with Ashes and ended in Tin, was his most commercially successful. Yet it is viewed as his most artistically bankrupt, with a scarcity of original ideas and surfeit of production. On the strength of later interviews, Bowie himself tended to agree. The fourth in the series of career-spanning box sets, Loving The Alien (1983-1988), may not be the set for absolute beginners, but, on repeated listening to its 15 LPs spanning Let's Dance to Never Let Me Down, it feels as if a reappraisal is due.
Another gem of a reissue from the David Bowie vault, Loving the Alien, comprises Bowie's three major hit albums from the '80s: a decade which, for Bowie, was perhaps his most varying, commercially successful, critically inconsistent, and adventurous era. Bowie, who was always considered a daring musician, produced some of his most cash and radio-ready tracks during this era (1983-88), as well as starring in films and working with international superstars. Where the '70s saw a Bowie album every year of the decade, '80s-era Bowie was very much a tinkerer, a studio frontiersman— and that sense of experimentation often produced negative reviews.
Every autumn since 2015, a new David Bowie career retrospective box set arrives. These are comprehensive (just about every remix and single/album edit is compiled, some albums even appear twice if their sequencing changed at some point) and yet incomplete (they omit bonus tracks found on Bowie's early 1990s Rykodisc reissues). The apparent aim is an "official release" Bowie master narrative, in boxes sturdy enough to prop up a table.