David Bowie Noel Coppage - Essay

Noel Coppage

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Well, Bowie does make you suspect he has intelligence—the album just before [Lodger], for instance, had a certain, um, élan about it—and so you listen. And usually picture him laughing all the way to the bank while you're actually trying to sort out the gobbledegook. That's what I'm doing this time, but at least I didn't have to pay for the damned thing. Bowie has always killed off his background—about the only real thing we've ever known about him is that he's afraid of flying (and in Move On here he mentions boats and trains but not planes). Now he's killed off the Ziggy Stardust and Ch-Ch-Changes phase, but in this one he seems to be a character in search of an author. He's leaning toward being something between Lou Reed and John Cale…. But Bowie doesn't really have his latest part sorted out. He can't decide whether to be cryptic and mysterious and maybe throw in a little stream of consciousness or to identify with the street crowd. His lines here are mostly short and mostly futile, given some of the high-flown themes he hints he's trying to illuminate; outside of the straightforward (and mediocre) Fantastic Voyage, the best you can hope for are a few limp language games set to some of the year's most boring and empty tunes.

Noel Coppage, "'Lodger'" (reprinted by permission of the author), in Stereo Review, Vol. 43, No. 4, October, 1979, p. 98.