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Week 94 | Omikron: The Nomad Soul (1999)

On the occasion of the increased prominence of the word, “Omicron,” I am taking a moment to acknowledge Bowie’s role in the 1999 video game, “Omikron: The Nomad Soul.”  I have never played the game, but the enduring part of Bowie’s contribution was a set of songs that formed the backbone of his album, “hours…”. Attached is a video compilation of what appear to be three “concerts” performed by a video game version of Bowie.  The songs are (somewhat) familiar but the images are not.

I usually don’t write about things I don’t actually experience.  In that respect, I am at a disadvantage writing anything about this game.  Unlike old music, old video games have less likelihood of being reissued.  From the looks of it, this game came out at a transitional moment.  Very simple games like Pac Man have some nostalgic appeal in part because they are easy to play and there isn’t a whole lot complicated about what made them fun in the first place.  Contemporary games rely much more on high quality graphics, complex ideas and intricate interactions.  From the looks of it, Omikron might have had good graphics for the time, but wouldn’t hold up today.  The appeal is Bowie, and since he made an album out of the music he provided, there’s a more straightforward way of accessing what you might really be after today from this game.  All that might be unfair, because I never played the game.

As for the music—- “hours…” is one of Bowie’s weaker late albums.  It’s shortcomings, however are not these three songs.  “Survive” and “Something in the Air” are minor triumphs, while “The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell” is at least interesting as the conclusion of what I think of as Bowie’s Pretty Thing Trilogy, which began with 1972’s “Oh! You Pretty Things,” and was followed in 1989 by Tin Machine’s “Pretty Thing.” After all that, by 1999 its understandable why the Pretty Things were in fact going to hell.

I remember a biographer of Bowie making the point about that “The Man Who Sold the World,” was essentially a heavy metal album that Bowie made at the down of that genre and that it was yet another example of Bowie as an innovator.  Few think of Bowie as a pioneer of heavy metal, or, for that matter, video games, but Omikron shows he was trying.

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