David Bowie – 1.Outside
David Bowie was a musical chameleon who never shied away from the weird. He reached his zenith of “weirdness” in 1995 with the release of 1.Outside (or just “Outside” or, if you’re feeling long winded “1.Outside – The Nathan Adler Diaries: A Hyper-cycle”), which is a dark and twisted art-crime rock opera. It’s like Columbo, but with incredibly brutal murders portrayed as art. It’s very obviously inspired by Twin Peaks and it perfectly fits with the mid-90s “grimdark” aesthetic. Originally a much more experimental double album (which can be heard on various places on the internet where legality is not ensured), the commercial album we now know and love is a dense and ever-changing soundscape. It veers from extremely heavy almost-techno (Hallo Spaceboy) to thoughtful ballad (the reused Buddha of Suburbia track “Strangers When We Meet”) with creepy character segues in between (all voiced by Bowie, who clearly had WAY too much fun with the voice modulation software). Every track has tons of layers and tiny bits thrown in to discover like clues at a crime scene, making it a fun and surprising listen, especially on headphones.
This album is one of my all-time favorite albums, hands down. I’ve purchased it four times over the years and I STILL find new things to love about it. Yes, it can come off as slightly pretentious in its overt weirdness, but that’s part of the fun. It revels in the grimdark trend of the time (which is something I could write a whole book about) while both looking back at David’s career as well as forward. It’s a perfect capsule of the mid-90s aesthetic and a MUST for any music collection.