An orphan in the Bowie canon, crowded together with Low and “Heroes” as part of the Berlin trilogy when in fact it’s best understood as the transition from those albums to Scary Monsters, Lodger is perhaps the most underrated record from Bowie’s classic period. In fact, I would argue it’s the most satisfying of the Berlin trio.
There’s something odd and slightly uncomfortable about Lodger – it’s hurt by a surprisingly muddy mix, and its flow feels disjointed, even after repeated listens – but that’s part of its appeal. I hesitate to use the term “avant-pop,” because that’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, but I think it’s fitting in this case. A working title was “Planned Accidents,” and that aesthetic is consistently present on all ten tracks. The songs here are mostly melodic and catchy, but they’re ripped apart by tape-warped guitar solos (courtesy of the always excellent Adrian Belew,) weird flourishes of faux-exotica, and odd song structures.
All in all, there’s not a bad song in the bunch. From the thrilling rush of “Look Back In Anger,” which features wonderfully melodramatic vocals from Bowie, to the catchy ersatz Turkish reggae of “Yassassin,” to the gently swaying, socially conscious opener “Fantastic Voyage,” Bowie is in top form. Even the deliberately jarring, dissonant “African Night Flight,” which bears Eno’s fingerprints all over it, is fascinating. And I haven’t mentioned “DJ” or “Red Sails,” two of the very best songs on here! on’t overlook this gem. —Mason