David Bowie’s latest “era” boxset will be released on 26th November this year. Titled Brilliant Adventure, it includes 1. Outside – one of his most celebrated albums, and rightly so. However, although this is a review looking back to an album from the past, it’s not Bowie’s. It is, though, one I bought at that time, soon after 1. Outside was released. As for why I’m writing about it here, well, like that Bowie album, it’s hard for me to think of it being anything other than progressive. When 1. Outside was release, Bowie made mention in the press that he had found The Young Gods hugely influential. I admit I’d never heard of them. I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to find them to check them out (this being in the days before it was easy to sample music online, of course). So as soon as I was able, I went straight to my preferred local record store (and back in those day, my hometown had five! I’m not even sure if there’s even one left now). I searched out The Young Gods, and found only the one album (T.V. Sky), so that’s what I bought – without ever having heard a note, and just taking Bowie’s word that this was good stuff.
And it is.
Such good stuff!
I love the sparse sound of the opening track, Our House – easily one of my favourite songs on the album. And then, the only mis-step, Gasoline Man, which does nothing for me. It’s the one track that I don’t like, and the one I inevitably end up skipping. And every time I do, I wonder why it is placed where it is, because if you listen to Our House and go straight into the title track, the two almost segue into each other. Gasoline Man doesn’t just sound bad to me, it sounds completely out of place. This is possibly a reflection of my not being a great industrial fan, as whenever I have looked at the many reviews for this album on t’Interwebs, I have always been struck by the fact that those songs I love most on this album tend to be the ones where most industrial fans query what The Young Gods were thinking. And Gasoline Man is often brought up as the best track on the album. I sometimes wonder if The Young Gods might have missed the boat somewhat. Nine Inch Nails seem to have been accepted into the progressive community in a way The Young Gods don’t seem to have.
For all that, though, there seems to be one song where both industrial fans and I share a high opinion. As stated, the title track is good, but the following track, Skinflowers, is even better – another of my favourites on the album, and the first where you can really hear just how much Bowie was influenced by the band. Which is not to say you couldn’t beforehand, but now it’s in your face. I can hardly listen to the intro to Skinflowers without singing “Baby Grace was the victim” in my head. I’m not suggesting that Bowie ripped the song off, because it’s not the same at all. And yet, I can easily interpolate 1. Outside Bowie with Skinflowers. The hits keep coming, as Dame Chance is another great song, and then (just as with Skinflowers after T.V. Sky) The Night Dance takes that to a whole new level! Another favourite!
As I’ve not seen the vinyl, I can’t be sure, but I imagine that the next song on my CD, She Rains, would be the first of the second side. It just sounds like an obvious opening track, being short, sharp and to the point, and eliciting a similar reaction and listening experience as Our House, although admittedly in not quite so spectacular a fashion. I like it very much, but it’s completely eclipsed by the next, and final song – an epic 20 minute track called Summer Eyes (yes, this is one my favourites as well, so I guess I’ve just declared half the album to be my favourite!). This is definitely the track that confused and frustrated the industrial fans the most. You can read reviews where the complaint is this is more Kraftwerk than Ministry, more Can than Nine Inch Nails – but that misses the point. The Young Gods were more of an art rock band experimenting with an industrial sound than a pure industrial band. And that experimental nature is what I love about this album.
While Gasoline Man feels like it goes on for twenty minutes (whenever I do listen to it, I’m always surprised that it’s actually under four-and-a-half as it seems sooooo much longer!), Summer Eyes seems to fly by – and I could easily listen to another twenty minutes! It’s industrial of epic proportions, but it’s so much more than industrial in the way it plays with psychedelic and ambient sounds. So where others (so many others) seem to find this boring or suggest it is unlistenable, I find Summer Eyes simply incredible, and anything but boring. For me, it’s just one more variation within a them. Within this ostensibly industrial album, as well as the aforementioned psychedelic and ambient, I get impressions of goth, new wave and post rock, among others. I love the experimentation in sounds, and it’s no wonder Bowie was so impressed by it, in my opinion. If this album passed you by at the time, and it’s likely it did, then I heartily recommend it to you now.
The Young Gods remain a going concern. Their most recent album was released in 2019, and despite Covid doing its best to stop them, the trio are still playing live as often as they can. At the time I was writing this review, they were performing Terry Riley’s In C at the Bee Flat in Bern. How I wish, how I wish I were there…
01. Our House (2:52)
02. Gasoline Man (4:22)
03. T.V. Sky (3:48)
04. Skinflowers (5:09)
05. Dame Chance (5:02)
06. The Night Dance (4:19)
07. She Rains (2:48)
08. Summer Eyes (19:55)
Total Time – 49:15
Urs Hiestand – Drums
Alain Monod – Keyboards
Franz Treichler – Vocals
Record Label: Play It Again Sam
Country of Origin: Switzerland
Date of Release: 7th February 1992 (Latest Reissue 2012)