Sell Me a Coat, Day Thread

This is a thread header about David Bowie’s self-titled debut album, hopefully the first in a series covering all his albums.

David Bowie gets sold rather short among Bowie’s catalog. Though it’s in the lower tier of his work, it’s actually rather inspired in places. “Love You Till Tuesday,” probably the best-known song on the record, is delightfully manic and rather catchy to boot. “We Are Hungry Men” is Bowie’s first high-concept song, and it delivers on dark laughter, as a group standing against overpopulation gradually cranks up their policy from sterilization to abortion to infanticide to cannibalism, ending the song with a series of eating noises. “There is a Happy Land” is a pensive and melancholy rumination on childhood.

Still, I don’t mean to oversell the album. Several tracks, such as “Sell Me a Coat” and “Join the Gang” are entirely bland, and others, such as “She’s Got Medals” and “Please Mr. Gravedigger,” are imaginative in a baffling and pointless way that makes you wonder what Bowie was trying to accomplish.

The album has a preoccupation with childhood, a theme that would carry through Bowie’s early work. This is most obvious in “There is a Happy Land” and “Come and Buy My Toys,” but “Uncle Arthur” shows it in its portrayal of a man-child uncle who “loves his mummy” and “still reads comics,” and the album as a whole couldn’t really be called mature at all.

All this is about David Bowie‘s lyrical content, and that’s because the music here is nothing to write home about. None of the arrangements or melodies rise above “catchy enough to whistle,” and there’s no particular virtuosity in Bowie’s vocals. He sounds far more Cockney here than in his most famous work, which is endearing but not exactly gorgeous.

Best track: “We Are Hungry Men”

Worst track: “Join the Gang”