Bowie fans widely consider this album to be the start of his “Creative Renaissance”, and I can definitely see why – the sheer boldness and brashness of the songwriting is nothing short of sensational at times, and you can tell Bowie is enjoying his craft again.
That being said, I wouldn’t necessarily consider this a go-to Bowie album; the individual songs are pretty good throughout, but for some reason I’ve never been too invested in the album as a whole. Still, how would I rank this excellent collection of songs?
You can check out some of my other related Bowie lists below:
19/18/17/16 – The Segues (Baby Grace, Nathan Adler 1 & 2, Algeria Touchshriek)
These four bizarre segues are probably why I don’t listen to this album much. I understand where Bowie is coming from – they add to the overall aesthetic and vibe of the concept album, but it kinda takes me out of the immersion whenever one plays.
As part of the album they’re “OK”, but on their own I can only ever lump all of these into the “Meh” tier at best.
15 – Leon Take Us Outside
This is in a similar boat to the segues – as part of the album it works nicely to set up the title track, but on it’s own I can’t rank it any higher than this.
14 – A Small Plot of Land
My least favourite of the actual tracks, this one is just too weird for me. The piano at the start is odd to say the least (a bit like “Aladdin Sane”, another track I don’t care for) and the rest of the instrumentation and harmonies don’t work at all.
13 – Wishful Beginnings
This just feels like an extended segue – it’s very artsy and weird, but it’s the eccentricity that turns me off this one.
12 – No Control
Probably the most “run-of-the-mill” track on the album, “No Control” seems tame in hindsight to some of the other crazy tracks.
I’d still consider this a good addition to the record – most of “1.Outside” is at least good, and I can appreciate the consistency.
11 – The Motel
Another one of the piano-centric tracks on this album, but this actually quite good. It takes a while to get going, but after a while this turns into a perfectly serviceable track – not my favourite, but I get the appeal.
10 – The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (As Beauty)
The chorus to this one is great, but everything else is a bit lacking. It starts on an interesting guitar riff, but otherwise there isn’t much of note to talk about.
9 – Outside
A decent opener in terms of setting the moody tone, but this is probably one of Bowie’s most underwhelming openers / title tracks. Still, a good way to kick things off.
8 – Segue – Ramona A. Stone / I Am with Name
The only segue that I can get behind, although the actual voiceover / segue part is what stops this from getting into the “Great” tier.
The “I Am with Name” section of this track is haunting and unnerving, and it fits the tone of the album perfectly. I wish the rest of the segues were like this, as this one puts the others to shame.
7 – Thru’ These Architects Eyes
Definitely the song that went up my rankings the most on a re-listen, there’s a uniqueness and grooviness to this one that appeals to me for some weird reason.
I really like the slick bassline that compliments the industrial sound, especially in the pre-chorus and chorus.
6 – I’m Deranged
There were lots of great tracks to pick from, and I found the creepy / unnerving tracks to be more stand-out than the others.
“I’m Deranged” has a beautiful, moody melody, and the frantic underlying instrumentation makes for an intriguing listen.
5 – We Prick You
Bowie went for a more industrial / Nine Inch Nails approach for “1.Outside”, and one of the tracks with the most noticeable influence has to be “We Prick You” – an aggressive track with intrusive lyrics and intricate instrumentation.
4 – Strangers When We Meet
Maybe it’s because Brian Eno returned to produce, but I think this version of “Strangers When We Meet” is waaay better than the original on “Buddha of Suburbia” two years prior.
It’s one of Bowie’s most endearing love ballads, yet somehow it’s melancholic and unsettling – much like the rest of the album. A sincere way to end the record.
3 – The Hearts Filthy Lesson
One of, if not the track that comes to mind whenever people think of this album, and I can’t think of a more appropriate song to represent this artsy, industrial concept album.
I also remember this track being used expertly in the end credits of the film “Seven”, and paired with Nine Inch Nails track “Closer” for the opening credits, David Fincher created an entirely creepy and uncomfortable atmosphere that I’ll never forget.
2 – Hallo Spaceboy
A thumping, hard rockin’ banger that is intensely catchy, “Hallo Spaceboy” gives the album a cosmic tinge that makes “1.Outside” a unique Bowie listen.
I’ve always seen this song as a pre-cursor to “Little Wonder” two years later, it has similar themes and electronic instrumentation; that’s not a bad thing, though, as this is an amazing track.
1 – I Have Not Been to Oxford Town
Not the conventional pick for top spot by any means, but “I Have Not Been to Oxford Town” has all the right beats: dark lyrics that add to the concept of the album, a raw / industrial sound, and a slick groove that always makes me come back for more.
Definitely my pick for best on the album, and easily one of Bowie’s most underrated tracks in his entire discography.
Aaaand that’s my list. We’re on the final stretch now! You can check out some of my latest blog posts below:
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