David Bowie: “hours…” (1999)
After the piledriver of electronica that was “Earthling”, the pillowy “hours…” comes off as almost adult contemporary; one critic mentioned in the Wikipedia article says this is Bowie as a “highbrow Sting”. Honestly, that seems the most apt description to me. I found this album pretty toothless, which is generally a big sin for me. The smooth, mushy production dulls even Gabrels’ normally angular guitar.
What’s doubly-damning for me is that none of the songs really rise above this cushy treatment. “The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell” tries desperately to rock out in almost Tin Machine fashion, but it’s so syrupy that it simply makes Bowie seem like an over-the-hill rocker failing to recapture his former glory. “New Angels of Promise” almost takes us back to Berlin, but misses its connecting flight. And “Seven”… I don’t even know what to do with this strummy, block chord acoustic number that’s just plain beneath an artist of Bowie’s caliber. I will say that “Thursday’s Child”, the first single released for the album, is definitely a brainworm, though it’s also possibly the most “Sting” of all the songs, and I mean that in a bad way.
In all, given that Bowie has been building up to the end of the millennium for quite a few albums now, this last hurrah before Y2k feels more like a whimper — partying like it’s 1998.