[The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is] David Bowie's most thematically ambitious, musically coherent album to date, the record in which he unites the major strengths of his previous work and comfortably reconciles himself to some apparently inevitable problems….
Side two is the soul of the album, a kind of psychological equivalent of [The Kinks's] Lola vs. Powerman that delves deep into a matter close to David's heart: What's it all about to be a rock & roll star? It begins with the slow, fluid "Lady Stardust," a song in which currents of frustration and triumph merge in an overriding desolation…. The pervading bittersweet melancholy that wells out of the contradictions … conjures the picture of a painted harlequin under the spot-light of a deserted theater in the darkest hour of the night….
[The] price of playing the part must be paid, and we're precipitously tumbled into the quietly terrifying despair of "Rock & Roll Suicide." The broken singer drones: "Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth / Then you pull on your finger, then another finger, then your cigarette." But there is a way out of the bleakness, and it's realized with Bowie's Lennon-like scream: "You're not alone, gimme your hands / You're wonderful, gimme your hands." It rolls on to a tumultuous, impassioned climax, and though the mood isn't exactly sunny, a desperate, possessed optimism...
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