"The mystery continues..."
Outside (also known as 1. Outside) is the twentieth studio album by David Bowie, released in 1995. This album also sees Bowie reunite with Brian Eno for the first time since Lodger in 1979, and unlike the Berlin Trilogy, on which he served as a collaborator rather than a producer (as is commonly mis-believed), Eno actually did take over production duties this time around, marking the first and last time he ever outright produced a Bowie album. The album marks yet another shift in sound and style for Bowie, this time switching over to a blend of industrial rock and art rock influenced heavily by Nine Inch Nails (to the extent where he toured with NIN and became personally acquainted with Trent Reznor while supporting the album).
The album also marks cautious reconciliations with RCA Records and EMI for Bowie, who had left the former in 1982 after souring relations over the course of the late '70s and the latter in 1990 over their hesitation towards his stint in Tin Machine. RCA would become Bowie's UK distributor as part of a deal with BMG throughout the '90s, also distributing Bowie's 2010s albums The Next Day and ★ in the territory (though he would remain properly signed onto various other labels). Meanwhile, after his previous US distributor, Savage Records, went belly-up while promoting Black Tie White Noise, Bowie signed onto EMI subsidiary Virgin Records for US distribution of Outside (while its immediate predecessor, The Buddha of Suburbia, was also released on Virgin in the US, that didn't come out in the States until one month after this album). Similarly to RCA, Bowie would stick with Virgin as his US distributor throughout the rest of the decade, permitting them and EMI to also handle the 1999 remastering campaign of his 1969-1989 back-catalog in all regions, eventually leaving the EMI group a second time in 2001 following the shelving of Toy.
Set 20 Minutes into the Future in 1999, a new art craze is sweeping the world: the murdering and mutilation of human bodies. Known as "Art Crime", Detective Professor Nathan Adler has been tasked by the government to investigate the phenomenon and determine which actions within the movement are truly art and which are just glorified murder. When a 14-year old girl in Oxford Town, New Jersey, named Baby Grace is found murdered in too gratuitous of a way to count as art, Alder is sent to find and arrest the culprit— which causes waves of conflict when everyman Leon Blank is accused and incarcerated, despite Blank's claims that he had never even set foot in the town where the murder took place. Thus, the album explores these events and their fallout in a (possibly) nonlinear fashion influenced by Twin Peaks, focusing not only on the storyline but also providing in-depth character studies— from Nathan to the names on the suspects list to even the anonymous murderer and their victim— and a thorough examination of what truly counts as art in a world where the meaning of the word "art" itself is coming under question more than ever before.
The album spawned three singles: "The Hearts Filthy Lesson", "Strangers When We Meet" (itself a re-recording of a track from The Buddha of Suburbia), and "Hallo Spaceboy", the latter of which was remixed by the Pet Shop Boys and incorporated into the Major Tom saga. The album was also a commercial success, peaking at No. 8 on the UK Albums chart and No. 21 on the Billboard 200, and was certified silver by the BPI.
Bowie planned for the album to be the first of a trio of concept albums (the second would have been called 2. Contamination), but Bowie ultimately scrapped the other two records and left the story unfinished. However, the themes of the album would continue to be explored on its follow-ups, Earthling and 'hours...', with a lingering influence that stretches all the way to ★.
- "Leon Takes Us Outside" (1:25)note - Sung by Leon Blank
- "Outside" (4:04)
- "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" (4:57) - Sung by Detective Nathan Alder
- "A Small Plot of Land" (6:34) - Sung by the residents of Oxford Town, New Jersey
- "Segue Baby Grace (A Horrid Cassette)" (1:39) - Spoken by Baby Grace Blue
- "Hallo Spaceboy" (5:14) - Sung by Paddy
- "The Motel" (6:49)note - Sung by Leon Blank
- "I Have Not Been to Oxford Town" (3:47) - Sung by Leon Blank
- "No Control" (4:33)* - Sung by Detective Nathan Alder
- "Segue Algeria Touchshriek" (2:03)* - Spoken by Algeria Touchshriek
- "The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (as Beauty)" (4:21) - Sung by the Minotaur
- "Segue Ramona A. Stone/I Am with Name" (4:01) - Spoken/sung by Ramona A. Stone and her followers
- "Wishful Beginnings" (5:08)* - Sung by the Minotaur
- "We Prick You" (4:33) - Sung by the Court of Justice
- "Segue Nathan Adler" (1:00) - Spoken by Detective Nathan Alder
- "I'm Deranged" (4:31) - Sung by the Minotaur
- "Thru' These Architects' Eyes" (4:22)* - Sung by Leon Blank
- "Segue Nathan Adler" (0:28)* - Spoken by Detective Nathan Alder
- "Strangers When We Meet" (5:07)* - Sung by Leon Blank
*Absent from Excerpts from Outside
"Paddy? What a fantastic tropes page. Tell the others!"
- 20 Minutes into the Future: The album takes place in 1999, just four years after the album's release.
- Aborted Arc: The album was intended as the first of a trilogy, but since it became an Orphaned Series, the world shall never know what was to become of its characters.
- Album Intro Track: "Leon Takes Us Outside", an instrumental piece with cryptic spoken-word phrases on top of it.
- Anachronic Order: Applies to both the liner notes' short story and the arrangement of songs and spoken-word segues on the album itself.
- Call-Back: The PSB remix of "Hallo Spaceboy" not only references Major Tom, but also cuts up and mixes up the lyrics for "Space Oddity" in the second verse.
- "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" has bits and pieces of droning background noises and whistles that sound very similar to the backing track on Iggy Pop's "Mass Production", a song that David Bowie composed for Iggy.
- Celebrity Paradox: Played with in the short story that accompanies the album, which is written as the diary of Detective Nathan Adler. Briefly recounting the history of the shocking performance art that paved the way for the "art-crime" fad, he notes that in The '70s "Bowie the singer remarked on a coupla goons who frequented the Berlin bars wearing dull surgery regalia: caps, aprons, rubber gloves and masks." No first name is given.
- Darker and Edgier: 1. Outside follows the mostly lighthearted Black Tie White Noise and the introspective The Buddha of Suburbia with one of the darkest albums in Bowie's discography, telling a bleak and unsettling story about a world where murder and mutilation has become an accepted (if transgressive) art form. This is highlighted by the grisly video for "The Hearts Filthy Lesson", which vividly details the process of making sculptures from human corpses.
- Clip Show: "Hallo Spaceboy" consists of Bowie and Pet Shop Boys interspersed with old-timey video clips.
- Epic Rocking: "The Motel" at 6:51, "A Small Plot of Land" at 6:34. The album itself is also notable for its length: at 74:36, it is the longest studio album Bowie ever put out. Bowie later regretted its length and suggested in interviews that it would've been more digestible as a double album (as in, keeping the tracklist identical but splitting it across two CDs even though it can fit snugly on just one).
- Evil Laugh: A deep, gurgling one forms part of the music for "Wishful Beginnings".
- The Exotic Detective: Detective Professor Nathan Adler of Art-Crime Inc.: It's his job to not only investigate grisly "art-crimes" to find out who done 'em, but also determine whether they actually qualify as works of art or not. ("Art's a farmyard. It's my job to pick thru the manure heap looking for peppercorns.") He has aspects of the Hardboiled Detective — he wears a trenchcoat and fedora, and has a world-weary, growling voice in his spoken-word segues — but is far more erudite and intellectual.
- Feelies: The limited-edition CD single release of "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" came on a shaped disc designed after Nathan Alder's head (as seen in the liner notes and single cover).
- The album's liner notes open with a sickeningly detailed description of Baby Grace's murder and mutilation, and feature an image of a mutilated "art crime" corpse midway through.
- The music video for "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" centers around this trope, featuring a troupe of art-criminals dismembering human corpses, turning them into sculptures, and playing with severed body parts, among other things. The video was so violent that it had to be radically edited for airplay on MTV.
- Hell Is That Noise: The voice for Ramona A. Stone is that distorted and disturbing it comes as a relief when her act segues into "I Am With Name".
- In the Style of...:
- Bowie described the album version of "Hallo Spaceboy" as The Doors mixed with Heavy Metal.
- The new version of "Strangers When We Meet" is based on the style of U2, for whom producer Brian Eno was a regular collaborator. The song's approach specifically takes after The Joshua Tree, which Eno co-produced.
- Loads and Loads of Roles: Bowie gives voice to a 52-year-old detective, a 14-year-old female murder victim, mad artists of both genders, a 78-year-old shopkeeper, etc. There are pictures of most of them in the booklet, via the magic of makeup, costume, and image manipulation of Bowie himself.
- Long Title
- The full title as presented on the album cover and interior insert reads 1. Outside: The Nathan Alder Diaries: A Hyper-Cycle
- The full title presented in the linear notes reads The Diary of Nathan Alder, or The Art-Ritual Murder of Baby Grace Blue: A non-linear Gothic Drama Hyper-cycle
- Madness Mantra: "The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (As Beauty)" ends with one, with the Minotaur repeating the words "call it a day" ad-infinitum.
- New Sound Album: Industrial rock with Alternative Dance elements.
- Orphaned Series: The album was supposed to have two follow-ups continuing the story (hence the "1." in 1. Outside), but they were ultimately abandoned in favor of simply exploring the base themes further on Earthling and 'hours...'.
- Our Minotaurs Are Different: One of the mad artists pictured in the booklet is known only as "The Minotaur" and conceals his face beneath an elaborate bull head mask. Bowie wears a similar mask in the video for the album's first single, "The Hearts Filthy Lesson", in which a cabal of other bizarre artists create a minotaur of their own (as Bowie explained in an interview; he was also a painter in Real Life and created several works featuring minotaurs).
- Pietà Plagiarism: "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" where Bowie can be seen "cradled" by a mutilated mannequin in a few shots.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: While her relationship to Baby Grace's murder is never confirmed, Ramona A. Stone is established as an antagonistic figure in "Segue - Baby Grace (A Horrid Cassette)". Her own part in "Segue - Ramona A. Stone/I Am With Name" features her both describing dreams about "ape men with metal parts" and complaining about "the funny colored English," with the juxtaposition of the two implying that she holds anti-black views.
- Rearrange the Song:
- The single release of "Hallo Spaceboy" is a considerable remix of the song by Pet Shop Boys, turning the industrial rock track into something closer to the duo's typical Alternative Dance material and giving Neil Tennant a guest verse based on the ending to "Space Oddity".
- "Strangers When We Meet" originally appeared on The Buddha of Suburbia before being re-recorded and released as a single from this album.
- Re-Cut: The initial LP release of the album in 1995 was as a truncated single-disc version named Excerpts from Outside, which cut out six tracksnote and shortened both "Leon Takes Us Outside" and "The Motel" considerably. Partly as a result of this, while side A on cassette copies ends with "No Control" (and CD copies don't have "sides" to begin with), side A on Excerpts ends at "Hallo Spaceboy". It wouldn't be until 2019 when the full album would be released on vinyl, as a double-LP, and even then the CD release is still treated as the definitive version (if only because it gets far more mileage out of the format than the cassette and LP releases do in regards to their respective formats).
- Regional Bonus: The Japanese release includes the B-side "Get Real" at the end as a bonus track, a configuration that would later be repeated for Columbia Records' international reissue in 2004.
- Rock Opera: Despite its highly nonlinear and enigmatic structure, this album is far more specific about its storyline and characters than his other concept albums, to the point of including an expository "diary" for the character Nathan Alder in the liner notes.
- Sanity Slippage Song: "I'm Deranged", natch.
- Shout-Out: A sample from a Brian May concert is played near the end of "Segue - Ramona A. Stone/I Am With Name".
- Shown Their Work: The Bowie-penned short story that makes up the bulk of the liner notes for 1. Outside not only establishes the album's storyline and characters, but also weaves in stories of the grisly "precursors" of the art-crime movement. These are mostly Real Life 20th century artists of the True Art Is Incomprehensible school, and often particularly grisly ones at that: Hermann Nitsch, Chris Burden, Damien Hirst, Ron Athey, and Guy Bourdin; Burden had previously inspired the "Heroes" song "Joe the Lion".
- Slasher Smile: Bowie pulls off a number of these in the video for "The Hearts Filthy Lesson", often juxtaposed with dismembered corpses for added eeriness.
- Spoken Word in Music: Aside from the intro and segues, this is used quite a bit in "The Hearts Filthy Lesson""Paddy, who's been wearing Miranda's clothes?"
- Surprisingly Happy Ending: "Strangers When We Meet", the closing track, is considerably Lighter and Softer than the rest of the album, being a tranquil and regretless rumination on an old romance. One website describes it as "like a boarded-up window being pried open to let in the sunlight."
- Title 1: The title was written as 1. Outside because it was planned as the first part of a trilogy.
- Title Track: Double subverted with the opening piece "Leon Takes Us Outside", which is then followed by "Outside"... but these only count if you treat Outside as the official album title.
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: "The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (As Beauty)" shifts up just before the outro.
- Updated Re-release: Arista Records reissued the album a year later as 1. Outside Version 2, adding the single remix of "Hallo Spaceboy" to the end as a bonus track and, on initial copies, tossing in a second CD containing several remixes and live recordings.
- Villain Song: "The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (As Beauty)", "Wishful Beginnings", and "I'm Deranged" are all sung from the Minotaur's point of view, and all three collectively offer insight into the character's mindset and intentions.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Bowie's cut-up technique from his Berlin days returns here, to similarly abstract and idiosyncratic results. This time, advancements in technology allowed him to execute it with a computer program rather than literal paper and scissors.