About the Album:
Lodger was the third album in what was known as the Berlin Trilogy. Most of the album was not, in fact, recorded in Berlin but Switzerland. However, the three albums are lumped together because David Bowie collaborated on them with Brian Eno and producer Tony Visconti. Much of the lineup was the same as with the two previous albums, although Adrian Belew – who’d been touring with Frank Zappa – was brought into the fold this time. Interestingly, he stepped into the role former King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp had filled on the last album. Belew would go on to play guitar for King Crimson.
Bowie and Eno tried different experiments such as playing old tunes backwards and having musicians trade instruments. Most of the songs were recorded with working titles and Bowie added lyrics later. Regarding the lyrics, the album focuses on two major themes – mostly on travel in the first half and primarily critiques of Western civilization in the second half. WK Author Frank Mastropolo saw Lodger as a concept album about a homeless traveler. WK
“On the surface, Lodger is the most accessible of the three Berlin-era records David Bowie made with Brian Eno.” AMG It “lacks the electronic and ambient styles and the song/instrumental split that defined its two predecessors.” WK The album “has an edgier, more minimalistic bent than its two predecessors, which makes it more accessible for rock fans, as well as giving it a more immediate, emotional impact. It might not stretch the boundaries of rock like Low and Heroes, but it arguably utilizes those ideas in a more effective fashion.” AMG There are even “a handful of concise pop songs.” AMG
The album is still full of “gnarled and twisted avant pop; what makes it different is how it incorporates such experimental tendencies into genuine songs, something that Low and Heroes purposely avoided. D.J., Look Back in Anger, and Boys Keep Swinging have strong melodic hooks that are subverted and strengthened by the layered, dissonant productions, while the remainder of the record is divided between similarly effective avant pop and ambient instrumentals.” AMG
The song “D.J.” took a look at how the disc jockey is viewed simply for what he is on the outside. WK Writer Ian Mathers said it was “a horror story about a human being reduced to nothing more than work.” WK Bowie said, “This is somewhat cynical but it’s my natural response to disco.” WK He imitates Talking Heads’ David Byrne in his vocal delivery. Ultimate Classic Rock’s Bryan Wawzenek described it as a “danceable gem.” WK
On “Look Back in Anger,” Bowie encounters an angel of death who has come to claim his soul. WK All Music Guide’s Ned Raggett described it as a “sharp-edged, thrillingly modern rock song.” WK Oasis named their 1996 song “Don’t Look Back in Anger” after Bowie’s song. WK
“Boys Keep Swinging” was one of the songs where the players switched instruments. It contained gender-bending lyrics. Bowie said, “I do not feel there is anything remotely glorious about being either male or female. I was merely playing on the idea of the colonization of a gender.” WK
Repetition is a chilling tale of a narrator conveying no emotion while beating his wife. WK The song was released as a B-side for third single “Yassassin” and again for fourth single “Look Back in Anger.”
The opening cut, Fantastic Voyage, is “surprisingly delicate,” WK signalling what author Peter Doggett said implied a “less intense” record. WK Three different musicians play mandolin and then each part was tripled-tracked. WK
Move On was one of the songs that grew out of Eno and Bowie’s experimentation with playing songs backwards – in this case, “All the Young Dudes,” which Bowie wrote for Mott the Hoople. Thematically, the song focuses on wanderlust.
The funk-and-reggae infused Yassassin incorporated violin to create the sound of Middle Eastern folk and Turkish music. WK Red Sails was inspired by the German band Neu!, sharing the same drum beat.
While previous album Low received fairly universal praise, the assessment of Lodger was more mixed. Melody Maker’s Jon Savage called it “a nice enough pop record, beautifully played, produced and crafted, and slightly faceless.” WK Red Starr of Smash Hits said it sounded like “a ragbag of rejects from previous styles.” WK
It was, however, referred to as Bowie’s “most eloquent” record in years in The New York Times. WK Spin magazine’s Jon Dolan said it was “his last great album.” WK It has been cited as a forerunner to the sound of Talking Heads and Spandau Ballet and some of its songs have even been credited with influencing Britpop in the 1990s.
Notes: The 1991 Rykodisc reissue included the previously unreleased 1979 song “I Pray Olé” and a new version of “Look Back in Anger” Recorded in 1988.