Nicholas Pegg on 1.Outside

Dec 01, 2019, 11:42 AM

1. Outside - Bowie's dystopian 1995 'concept album', a series of graffiti like spoken word pieces, coruscatingly dark music and an impish Bowie clearly very much enjoying himself, this was a highlight of a patchy 1990s. Nick Pegg and I met this summer to chew over the bones of this particular album.

Released in September 1995, 1. Outside (The diary of Nathan Adler or the art-ritual murder of Baby Grace Blue: A non-linear Gothic Drama Hyper-cycle), was [Wikipedia says] "set in 1999, in which the government, through its arts commission, had created a new bureau to investigate the phenomenon of Art Crime". 

How disappointing that 1999 in fact, just brought us "...hours" instead. 

Anyway, 1. Outside was intended as the first in a series of releases intended to articulate a sense of dystopian tension in the air as we hurtled towards 2000. It was a return to the sort of scabrous sounds and scary monsters of 1980, much to the joy of the Bowie hardcore but given it was issued during the blearily sunny era of Britpop, the album befuddled many, not least the fiercely savage music press of the time (remember them?) who savaged the strange suite of songs, set amidst experimental collages of spoken word fragments and featuring some of Bowie's most abrasive music in ages. 

Having reunited with Mr B. Eno, Mr R Gabrels and Mr E Kizilcay, Bowie allowed his imagination to run riot, indulging his newly reignited love of contemporary art, sci fi and electronica in a startlingly original statement that stands up to repeated investigation to this day.