Archive for March, 2006
Dreams of an Outside Trilogy Thoroughly Contaminated
Friday, March 3rd, 2006

Back in the 80’s when audio cassettes were totally rad, comedian Rich Hall said if he ever had a band he would name it Tape Head Cleaner because even if they sucked, they’d be sure to sell a lot of tapes. And so was the thought behind the title of Failure To Communicate Records’ new CD, 2. Contamination. Far from the long-awaited sequel to Bowie’s 1995 album 1. Outside, it is a 2-disc compilation of mostly unknown bands covering their favorite Bowie songs, as though the world needed another.

It’s only natural that any album, article or website related to Bowie might nick part of a old song title or lyric from his back catalog to talk about how his music has ch-ch-ch-changed over the years. Any such reference in a catchy headline pays homage to an artist who is so much a part of popular culture, he is identifiable through countless obscure associations: the Thin White Duke, Alladin Sane, Ziggy Stardust. But stealing a title he has yet to use doesn’t smell like admiration as much as twisted marketing.

For one, it’s not a title known to the passing fan of his music. It’s the hardcore fans who know of 2. Contamination and have been anxious for its completion and release. And it’s those fans who will see the title on a web page or the CD cover, feel that jolt of excitement that the possibility may have at last been realized, and then be let down when they see a tracklist of nothing but old songs performed by also-rans.

On plenty occassions Bowie has recognized that there is a divide between he says he will do and what he has done. It’s all a part of his “entertainment value.” He has retired, refused to play old hits, and more recently planned to release and album called Toy. And good luck separating his true intentions from the smokescreen.

At last mention in a live chat some six years ago (see, he wrote that he was most looking forward to “trying to piece together ‘2.contamination’, the follow up to Outside” during that year. According to Dr. Andrew Broad’s site, Bowie’s Outside sessions with Eno yielded more than 24 hours of material and the only missing ingredient was time to “sift through” it all. I also recall reading that he and Eno were considering completing the album entirely via Internet, without ever physically meeting.

Whether or not Bowie has any desire to complete 2. Contamination, the general consesus among fans of 1. Outside is that a forthcoming follow-up would be greeted with open ears. And until the artist who originally conceived the title puts it to use, anyone else’s capitalization of it is, in my mind, deceitful to the fans and disrespectful to the performer they were trying to honor.

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