David Bowie, Young Americans

Jayson Greene

By Jayson Greene

on 06.05.11 in Reviews

Young Americans

David Bowie

In which the Thin White Duke invents another new subgenre: Rigor Mortis Soul. Imagine if Otis Redding’s Madame Tussaud wax figure tried to come to life and sing “Try a Little Tenderness,” and you have a good idea of the fascinating, constrained take on black American soul that Bowieassayed on Young Americans. The title track is the classic moment, a gospel rocker tottering on stiff, arthritic knees in an overly starched suit, a too-bright saxophone piping merrily asBowie croaks a story about sexual dissolution, wasted bodies and self-cutters. Meanwhile, an actual gospel choir warms up the chorus just enough to keep the song from freezing.

Head, heart; meet groin

The genius of Bowie, of course, is that even beneath all the morbidity and formal gestures, he made sure to get the finer points right: On “Win,” you can hear a young Luther Vandross on backing vocals and David Sanborn on saxophone. Bowie might be wheezing like a wounded vampire, but the song itself is so ripe it could have fallen off a tree. The result is baby-making music that manages to also stare directly into the terrifying abyss of existence. Head, heart; meet groin. You might all be able to help each other out.