Future Legend/Diamond Dogs
By Ian Belknap
And in the death, as the last few corpses lay rotting in the slimy thoroughfare…
Re-listening to these dolesome opening strains, sounding like some dystopian cabaret in the sewers of Berlin or something, I am struck by the gulf (in discernment, in your capacity to forgive excess, etc.) that opens up inside you between your first encounter with a thing you come to love and the version of you that you eventually become. The years have put many miles of hard road in my rearview since I first goth-wallowed in the dank expanse of “Future Legend”, which in a minute-eight succeeds in evoking a fully realized, if overwrought, world.
I was like eight when Diamond Dogs was first released in 1974, so I remained unaware of it till a few years later, when I emerged as a smug know-it-all shitheel teenager. As I listen to this first track now, as a smug, know-nothing, grown-ass man, I toggle back and forth between my then-self, whose mind was blown (“he really GETS the world, man”) by the line “fleas the size of rats sucked on rats the size of cats” and my current self, who hears “10,000 people-oids” and can’t help thinking Bowie’s coasting on that singular British ability to intone malarkey-rubbish with convincing gusto. Because, let’s be honest: this is like an ass-hair away from Austin Powers-style self-parody.
What continues to lay claim to my mind after all these years, though, is this: the transition between “Future Legend” and the title track; restive crowd noise, then “This ain’t rock and roll, this is… genocide!” is one of the single rocking-est song lead-ins ever committed to vinyl. The sad fact is that the song itself fails to deliver on this promise. It’s essentially six minutes of mid-tempo letdown. Which, as I listened to these two tracks for the first time in a long while, drove home a sad reality of living. Too frequently, the artistic haymaker of your youth that snapped your head back and rocked you on your heels, proves to be, when thrown in adulthood, a weak jab or faltering left cross.
The good news: you’re not the dupe you were as a dewy-eyed child. The bad news is you’re generally less dazzled and blown away. By pretty much anything. Part of what you sacrifice by growing smarter and more skeptical is that wonder and amazement that spread around you like a wide, wide meadow when you were young. That meadow shrinks with time to a patch about as big across as a dish towel.
On the face of it, this is grisly as hell. But actually, when you think about it, this dish towel-sized patch of amazement is greater and more sustaining than the wide, wide meadow, because the totality of the less frequent amazement here on the dish towel patch is more full and satisfying than any of the dimly remembered and shabby contents of the meadow.