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Fuck Bowie

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David Bowie

By Mof Gimmers

“Nobody ever knows when to call it a day” – David Bowie

David Bowie’s return to music took many by surprise because that’s exactly what David Bowie wanted. No promo, no murmurs of a return, he just appeared with a new song and immediately, the whole of the music press started performing somersaults for him.

This, in part, had a lot to with everyone assuming he was dead. The rumours have stirred for a while, so to hear him crooning away was rather pleasing. He seems like a nice enough bloke and it is nice to have him around, like that eccentric, sweet uncle who thinks he’s much more clever than he is, but means well.

And this is how most people look at old rock stars. They’re comforting and take up painting when their star has waned, and try to elevate themselves above being a ‘mere’ pop musician. They get into painting and being in films. They buy fleets of classic cars and have ex-model wives and become lifestyle tourists, coming back to make albums that steal a little of the indigenous music of their holidays. Basically, all rock stars become George Harrison.

However, like all old rockstars, fuck Bowie.

Away from the cosy feeling one gets from knowing David Bowie hauling his bones about the place, his utterly unremarkable return has prompted the most nauseating media circle-jerk since The Last Famous Person Died Who Everyone Was At Pains To Wax Lyrical About Like They Were Always A Fan.

Bowie’s new song shows just how conservative music writing has become, with a collective whooping with glee that an old man has managed to release an album without telling anyone first! So what? Most records get released like that. It isn’t forward thinking – it’s frugal. And critics massaged each other at how Bowie had made a record that “sounded his age”, cooing at the melancholia and, ostensibly, lack of youthful influence (people weren’t nearly as kind when ‘Little Wonder’ hit the record racks, because they thought he was Midlife Crisis Uncle then), when elsewhere, old rockstars acting their age (musically), is roundly ignored or sneered at. Critics are indulging in a competition to see who can piss highest with praise, only succeeding in covering everyone with their piss.

When it comes down to it, Bowie has made a record that sounds like ‘Free As A Bird’ (another lousy nostalgiafest) and has been greeted like he’s shown young bands a thing or two about being brilliant and innovative. And that’s bunkum.

Bowie is, and always has been a phoney. People have foisted their idea of the perfect popstar on him, looking at his changeling ways like he’s a daring, inventive artist, rather than someone with a short attention span and an admittedly admirable contempt for his own fans. He does what he wants and you have to go along with it or lump it. Just like Dylan, Bowie has turned his selfishness into a career, with each falling mask revealing something else that doesn’t necessarily speak for anyone but the artist’s own flights of fancy. That’s not a criticism as such, because artists are advised to be restless and curious, but it showcases a problem with critical thinking, post 2000.

The canonisation of old rock stars is now reaching breaking point. Thanks to Bowie throwing out a half-arsed ballad to wistfulness, we’re faced with a unified approach by the music press that, thanks to a modicum of tastefulness (taste? Ha! Who needs it!) in the shape of a beige ballad by a man with a famous voice, Bowie is brilliant. If some young upstarts recorded ‘Where Are We Now?’, it’d be roundly ignored, and rightly so. Bowie has recorded a pretty tedious tune that only excites with context. The context being: “Here’s a song you haven’t heard with a very familiar voice on it and it won’t embarrass you like Scott Walker might while he’s singing about his death and throwing sides of beef at a bass drum”.

While it is perfectly fine for people to be pleased at Bowie’s return and cluck endlessly about how fabulous he is, you can’t help but wonder why the press at large isn’t fighting about it. If MOJO (a dead-cert for Bowie as their next cover star) ran enthusiastic pieces on him, you’d understand it. However, you’d hope that rags dealing with new music would tell Bowie to get fucked. There’s been an editorial handshake between everyone that says publications will back Bowie and no articles will be commissioned that says otherwise, which is patronising to the reader. Music magazines aren’t broadsheet newspapers with a political angle. They are supposed to fun, bitchy and filled with dissent. A magazine should be able to thrill about an artist on one page, and berate them on another. That’s what makes pop music so much fun. It isn’t a circle jerk. It’s about arguing (arguing about pop music is better than listening to it, and that’s a fact). Music writers are supposed to make musicians accountable for making boring records. That’s their primary role. Jagger’s ‘Super Heavy’ project was laughed out of town before anyone heard a note. Not one music paper is doing the same with Bowie, a true trad. arr. Rock Star.

Yet, all the culture sections and such have all decided that they like Bowie and no-one should say otherwise. I still think it’d be fun if the NME ran a cover that said “FUCK BOWIE” in huge letters. Writing about pop music isn’t uncovering a political scandal or child-abuse ring – it is supposed to be opinionated and silly, just like the very subject it covers. However, music writers have convinced themselves that they’re doing an important job, and in turn, musicians have convinced themselves that they’re serious artists.

And here’s the underlying problem: If music if filled with people who take themselves seriously as artists or reporters, what is our future? David fucking Bowie’s ‘Where Are We Now?, that’s what. I preferred Bowie when he polarised everyone by making a drum ‘n’ bass record. Sure, it sucked, but it wasn’t as boring as this return. It seems, like the shape-shifting Dylan, Bowie has revealed the final stage of his act – The Slippered, Pipe Duke, which sees an artist capable of so much, gliding into magnolia, rather than an explosion of embarrassing colour.

“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring,” said Bowie. If only he knew.

Related posts:
Song of the day – 548: David Bowie (the new single reviewed)
Response from a Disgruntled David Bowie fan
Fuck music critics | the new David Bowie single properly reviewed

19 Responses to Fuck Bowie

  1. Rik gay January 13, 2013 at 11:39 am

    You’re a bitter bitter asshole.

  2. TheoGB January 13, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Spot on.

  3. lenskalo January 13, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    Completely agree. (And I like your writing.)

  4. Robert Davidson January 13, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    Why can’t rock musicians be serious artists? Why can’t older musicians keep going till their grave like composers of yore?

  5. Gypsy January 14, 2013 at 1:17 am

    The phrase here that goes “arguing about pop music is better than listening to it” just puts this piece into context. I don’t like the new Bowie song and I don’t like sycophantic journalism. But this article is not about music, it’s about the music press… And it’s about yourself. It’s like when politics stops being about doing the people’s best and becomes a self-fulfilling exercise. It smells of decadence, decomposition. Dead souls with too many dead brain cells. I really don’t like Bowies new song, I dont care if it’s slated or else. But coming up with the oh so controversial (!!) “Fuck Bowie” in 2013 because he’s old and tired, just like his music is, well.. That says more about the writer than Bowie’s new single. And what it says is exactly “at least Bowie is 66 and has hugely affected popular culture. You are probably less than half is age and you sound decrepit in a way Bowie could never do.”

  6. Sam January 14, 2013 at 2:11 am

    NME probably wouldn’t do a “FUCK BOWIE” cover because all the writers there probably really like the new Bowie song. It’s not a conspiracy and the music world is not just appeasing him. It’s a good song and, like most good songs, some people enjoy it and some people don’t. Your argument that he should be making records that people hate is an immature reaction.. because he’s old, he should be making a fool of himself and releasing poor music? Just because that wouldn’t be “boring?” Would love to read your thinkpiece if Bowie came back with a dubstep song.. I know people like you might find a career move like that “exciting,” but I am perfectly happy with Bowie writing a good song, singing it well, and releasing it to his fans. That is exactly what I want from the artists I admire, regardless of their age.

  7. Bill Schlanbusch January 14, 2013 at 2:51 am

    “…arguing about pop musuc is much better than listening to it. It’s a fact.”

    I love this.

    “Bowie has recorded a pretty tedious tune that only excites with context.”

    This, I fear, misses the first point. ALL we have to consider when arguing pop music IS context. We contextualize style, sound, image, age, canon,… hell, we contextualize celebrity itself, when arguing pop music. Or perhaps the more proper verb is, “fetishize”.

  8. Thetruth January 14, 2013 at 3:15 am

    And fuck mof

  9. soooooyousee January 14, 2013 at 3:29 am

    more rubbish music journalism.
    i’m not even a Bowie fan but this is yet more awful ‘music journalism’

  10. Wallace Wylie January 14, 2013 at 3:50 am

    I’m just wondering if saying “Fuck Bowie” is just as conservative as saying “Welcome Back Bowie”. It’s like having a debate about The Beatles. It’s trying to stir up a hornets nest in Mojo’s lunch room. In terms of the NME saying “Fuck Bowie”, it’s going to look a little silly if they say that and then put some shitty guitar band on the cover a week later as if that represents something radical. Bowie at this point is rock music in its twilight years. I don’t like his new song. What’s sad though is that it’s more radical in terms of aesthetic than almost any British guitar band.

  11. Pingback: Making Something Out of Everything | Acts of Silence

  12. Dreck Snobbler January 14, 2013 at 6:28 am

    I think the point was to rant and annoy people because he’s got loads of self-righteousness boiling inside him but not quite the observational or critical thinking skills to say something of substance. Pretty common internet personality type, really.

    Maybe that’s not fair though, you do have a couple interesting angles in there, but the whole “Bowie is a phoney” thing is so thick-headed and entire-point-missing that it’s hard to take anything else said seriously.

    Furthermore, there’s a question burning to be asked: why do so many British music journalists act like 14-year-old boys with band t-shirts, arguing about who’s more punk? I mean honestly, the degree to which you think a band, NOT THE MUSIC, but a BAND, can represent you, your ideas, a political movement, whatever – comes off as hopelessly naive and gratingly shallow at the same time. Maybe that’s why yinz keep on proffering up total fake indie showbiz crap as the Next Savior Of Pop Music like EVERY FUCKING WEEK. As bad as Pfork et al are, nothing can top the absurdity of the British Music Press.

    Can it? Am I off here?

  13. soooooyousee January 14, 2013 at 7:51 am

    @ Dereck – completely agree.
    well said.

  14. Dreck Snobbler January 14, 2013 at 9:03 am

    well said Erika

  15. soooooyousee January 14, 2013 at 11:28 am

    So we are now back to mocking Bowie , a dead Beatle , Bob Dylan for being ‘uncool’ and yeh just shit etc …..HOW COOL

    *yawn*

    I don’t like the Bowie tune either but as already noted above by some why do some music journalists actually seemingly know so little about music making , songwriting , production , music itself or barely ever actually write about stuff that?

    Instead theres the amateur neurotic sociology and a fascinatingly ironic shallowness in this article thats ironically more contrived than any Bowie even.

    This weird self neurotic compelled self profession to not liking music much or to shout how you see it as even a naff form of art .

    The bored resort to a rather embarrasing phoney faux-punk statements that ironically seem more contrived than the mentioned artists above ever were.

    The Jimmy Saville esque obsession with ‘youth’

    If i was a teenager i would still cringe at postmodern garbage writing like this.

    Articles like this often say far more about the writer than the subject.

    Poor stuff.

  16. Daniel January 15, 2013 at 2:10 am

    There is always a place for Caulfieldesque screeds about the phoneys and how they have no place making earnest artifice. What does that have to do with the new single being plodding and dull?

    I think most people know that Bowie was quoted as saying “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring,” shortly before recording Dead Bees on a Cake, but I might have him confused with another phoney.

  17. Paul January 15, 2013 at 10:46 am

    I thought it sounded like Free as a Bird too. I wonder if his next single will sound like Real Love.

  18. Chester Whelks January 18, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    @soooooyousee: “why do some music journalists actually seemingly know so little about music making , songwriting , production , music itself or barely ever actually write about stuff (like) that?”

    In this case, it’ll be because the journalist is a DJ.

  19. Mark James February 7, 2013 at 2:11 am

    Fuck “Mof Gimmers” (shit name too, by the way). The only phoney around here is you.

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