If Young Americans was Rigor Mortis Soul, then Station to Station subtracts the Soul. Young Americans flirted with stasis and clinical detachment; Station to Station ushers out even the few warm-blooded humans allowed in the room. What’s left is an empty, stainless-steel room full of majestic, glittering instruments. The title track is a grinning, grinding, impersonal nightmare: Two piano notes thud dully like dead fish hitting the floor. Guitars needle and sputter like bare wires. There is no groove, only a menacing, repetitive lurch that refuses to shift downward or pitch upward. If you’ve had a headache so pounding that felt like your skull was closing in on your brain, than you already know what Station to Station feels like.
That Bowie could sweeten this kind of pill just enough to make it not only swallowable, but bizarrely sweet — and in what was reportedly the worst condition of his adult life, no small statement — is testament to his theatrical genius. He turned all this desiccated horror into genius cabaret. “Golden Years” is a flailing tarantella that feels like the murmuring coda to “Young Americans.” “TVC15″ nodded stiffly at stride piano and boogie blues; you could even mistake it, momentarily, for real-deal Good-Times Rock ‘n’ Roll. During this time, Bowie’s genius manifested itself in his ability to bury a frozen wail of despair and turn it into shiny, slick party music.