Parlophone Records [Release date 03.07.20]
When it comes to the oft-debated world of posthumous releases, the gatekeepers of David Bowie’s catalogue can surely be held up as an example of how to do it right. Since Bowie’s passing in 2016 there has been a consistent rollout of material to sate mourning fans’ appetite.
These releases range from bankruptcy inducing box-sets focussed on a particular era, to more commercial live albums (Bowie’s legendary Glastonbury 2000 performance), to digital-only EPs – that is to say something for everyone. ‘Ouvrez le Chien’ will probably only garner interest from already converted disciples of the Thin White Duke but it is still a very welcome package.
Taking its name from the French for “OPEN THE DOG”, an allusion to the 1970 song ‘All the Madmen’, this streaming live album captures a 1995 Dallas concert in support of the album ‘1. Outside’. After the straight-ahead stadium rock of Tin Machine, this era (starting with 1993’s ‘Black Tie White Noise’) is generally considered to be a return to the more avant-garde David Bowie of the Berlin Trilogy.
Indeed ‘Outside’ marked the return of mad scientist producer Brian Eno, for his first significant collaboration with Bowie since the late 70s; a project that found the pair interviewing patients in a psychiatric hospital for research. Adding to the slightly askew feel, Nine Inch Nails were support act for the tour.
Opening number ‘Look Back in Anger’ instantly makes Bowie’s intent clear, the 1979 song has been given a contemporary polish with Mike Garson’s loopy piano and schizophrenic drumming from Zack Alford.
The set-list mainly consists of ‘Outside’ material, any archive numbers are never the obvious choices and everything has been arranged to feel of the same piece. The ‘Man Who Sold the World’ is a particularly successful techno update, with reverb heavy guitar work from Reeves Gabrels and Carlos Alomar that is particularly haunting.
Despite being an electronic album, the band makes a commendable job of translating ‘Outside’ numbers to the live setting, with a few well placed samples. ‘The Voyeur of Utter Destruction’ finds Bowie in particularly fine form vocally, with a delightfully weird delivery switching between staccato scream and Gregorian chant; “I shake, And stare at the sun, Till my eyes burn”.
Bowie’s 90s drum and bass dalliance was the recipient of critical mirth at the time, but efforts like the gothic trip hop of ‘We Prick You’ demonstrate an artist that could still embrace new styles twenty five plus-years into his career. ‘Nite Flights’ is a dreamy dance track, again unique in the Bowie oeuvre.
Any review of ‘Ouvrez le Chien’ would be remiss without mention of David Bowie’s wonderful bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, who sings the Freddie Mercury part on ‘Under Pressure’ and boasts a powerful yet beautiful vocal quality which more than matches the original.
‘Pressure’ features twice thanks to two bonus B-Sides from a Birmingham concert. The version of ‘Moonage Daydream’ doesn’t really fit the aesthetic of the rest of the gig but completists will doubtless be pleased at the inclusion.
It may be deemed blasphemous to say so but an album like ‘Dallas 95’ probably holds more interest than yet another dip into archive content from the 70s. This set arrives as a pleasant surprise, Bowie in cheeky form and marshalling a slick band; as the years pass, releases like these only serve to strengthen the David Bowie legacy, highlighting overlooked material that’s due a reappraisal. ****
Review by Phillip Beamon
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