Personnel: David Bowie (vocals, guitar, alto saxophone, keyboards, samples); Reeves Gabrels (vocals, guitar, synthesizer, programming); Gail Ann Dorsey (vocals, bass); Mike Garson (piano, keyboards); Mark Plati (keyboards, programming); Zachary Alford (drums, electronic percussion, loops).
Recorded at Looking Glass Studios, New York, New York.
EARTHLING was nominated for 1998 Grammy Awards for Best Rock Album and Best Alternative Music Performance. "Dead Man Walking" was nominated for a 1998 Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.
Personnel: Gail Ann Dorsey (vocals); Mike Garson (piano, keyboards); Mark Plati (keyboards, programming); Reeves Gabrels (synthesizer, programming).
Audio Mixer: Mark Plati.
Recording information: Looking Glass Studios.
EARTHLING is a strange album title coming from a man who's made a career out of ruminating on rock and rollers from Mars and other faraway places. But after all this time, it makes sense. Bowie's 1970s experiments in dance music, art-rock and other space-age pop forms helped lay the groundwork for modern styles like ambient and techno, and now he comes across as an astronaut inspired by what he's found and looking for a way to bring it all back home. If his most daring '70s albums were a conscious separation from rock and roll, then EARTHLING, for all its jungle beats, ambient noises and industrial dynamics, is a kind of return, an attempt to incorporate all he's learned into the music he started with.
EARTHLING sounds like no other rock album. The beats, which combine live drumming with loops, have the fast, herky-jerky drive of the techno style known as drum-and-bass; the guitars are an explosive mix of live action and samples; there's an occasional dub-reggae synth line; and Bowie's voice doesn't always come clearly through the clanging music. The disjointed arrangements alternately recall danceable rock bands like Big Audio Dynamite and rocking dance artists like Moby. But it's rock nonetheless, with strong, melodic verse-chorus-verse songs like "Little Wonder" and "Dead Man Walking" that use these sounds the way Nirvana used metal and Madonna used house music--as slaves in the service of the gods of pop.
Rolling Stone (2/20/97, pp.65-66) - 3.5 Stars (out of 5) - "...gets its charge from the kind of loud, industrial power riffs and electronically treated vocals that Trent Reznor is so fond of....captures the mood of contemporary popular culture--from the anguish of American industrial rock to the ecstasy of British dance music."
Spin (3/97, p.102) - 6 (out of 10) - "...his first credible stab at a vanguard styling since his Brian Eno days, a collection of nine tunes surfing the wave of dance music that's everyone's best bet for next big thing..."
Entertainment Weekly (2/14/97, pp.59-61) - "...an album as playable as it is startling....As dacne subgenres go, techno and drum-and-bass represent the fastest styles yet invented, making this, by definition, Bowie's briskest album. A sprint of slapping snare drums and shimmering cymbals brightens nearly every track..." - Rating: A
Q (1/98, p.111) - Included in Q Magazine's "50 Best Albums of 1997."
Uncut (p.143) - 4 stars out of 5 - "[The album] contains some grippingly sublime moments..."
Alternative Press (5/97, pp.66-67) - "...[Bowie's] recorded his most enjoyable record in a long time, hot on the heels of his most interesting ditto..."
Melody Maker (2/8/97, p.51) - "...Best since SCARY MONSTERS....Bowie hasn't stooped to cloning (he never stoops--it's terrible for the posture). Bowie absorbs...assimilates...Then advances..."
Mojo (Publisher) (2/02, p.84) - "...A good example of Bowie's magpie instinct coinciding with rejuvenated creative urges. The industrial rock...served him well."