Diamond Dogs (Virgin 21904)
Diamond Dogs is a blindingly annoying misstep of an album, endeavoring to add "experimental" and "innovative" qualities to the glamminess of Ziggy and Aladdin Sane, but resulting mostly in incoherent shit.
As with several of Bowie's mid-70s albums, this one has a ton of spotty patches and a few good songs, the overall effect being passable at best, but there's so much calculated "noisy craziness" on this album that it's rendered quite throwaway. Any album where "Rebel Rebel" comes as a welcome relief is simply not the greatest album ever made.
Bowie's glam period is highly regarded by rock critics and other white people, and this one has its cult following as do most of those albums. But from its unpleasant cover art on, this is just an ugly affair. The first sound you hear is a retarded moan, leading into the unlistenable spoken-word bullshit of "Future Legend," the music of which manages to use the melody to "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" and render it horrible.
This is a prelude to the fake-live "Diamond Dogs" which is just another of the hundreds of glam rock "classics" that is really no better than "Johnny B. Goode" at the end of the day (that wasn't a compliment). Those crazy gurgly background vocals might have sounded alright in 1974 (and/or on debilitating amounts of cocaine) but the sonic assault does not seem to serve a greater purpose.
Bowie has used noise to good effect, but Diamond Dogs just comes off as self-loathing, an uncomfortble excursion for artist and listener alike.
"Sweet Thing" is bland, "Candidate" is unlistenable, and "Rebel Rebel" everyone knows. To its credit, this song sounds much better in the context of the album than isolated on the radio (as with "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" and "I Can See For Miles"). It's probably helped a lot by the fact that "Candidate" is so fucking awful, almost anything would be a treat afterward.
Strangely, the bonus track demo version of "Candidate" tacked on at the end of earlier editions of the disc reveals it to be quite a good song, as it lacks the miserable guitar "revolution." The bonus tracks have been excluded in Virgin's reissue series, though.
Side 2 picks things up a bit with "Rock 'N Roll With Me" (a very good proto-power-ballad), and "We Are the Dead," which isn't a wonderful song but at least contains the phrase "defecating ecstasy" and the line "I love you in your fuck-me pumps."
"1984" and "Big Brother" are way too self-important, and closing with "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family" (best described as "Miss You" by the Rolling Stones crossed with "The Monster Mash") only illuminates the desperate and half-assed nature of the whole album.
It's still a Bowie album, and therefore will always hold some interest I do find that my attitudes toward many of his records shift around over time. For this moment, though, I have still yet to grasp what might be likeable about Diamond Dogs. As with cocaine, you don't start liking it more the deeper you get into it, you just get increasingly disconnected. Perhaps with this type of thing, it's best to just avoid trying to acquire the taste.
Review by Kermit Ash