David Bowie's Albums From Worst To Best

Tin Machine I & II (1989 / 1991)

Tin Machine would prove to be the noble experiment David Bowie desperately needed after half a decade spent in the weeds with Tonight and Never Let Me Down. He still got killed for it, critically and commercially, but it was the beginning of something ever so slightly better. The idea: dispense with the nonsense, trim the fat, cut the shit. This was back to basics rock and roll, possibly intended as a return to form, although Bowie never played much of this stuff, whatever it is, in his younger years. Either way, Tin Machine was intended to be an actual band, where the people playing instruments got to call the shots as much as the guy holding the mic. Whether it actually worked that way, who’s to say. But the guitars were sure mixed to the front, and goddamn if there weren’t a lot of guitars. Guitarist Reeves Gabrels was left to his own devices —- judging by the tones on display there must have been a lot of devices in use. The effect isn’t dissimilar to what Robert Fripp did over Scary Monsters ten years before, except the songs are nowhere near as much fun. And that’s the heart of the problem: both Tin Machine albums are similar in the way they blend straightforward rock with ambient guitar noise, but they’re both forgettable. Neither is half as bad as the reputation they’ve gained over the years — because really, nothing is half as bad as Tonight or Never Let Me Down — but you won’t reach for these often.