It's awfully easy for those who haven't heard it to question the motives behind David Bowie's recent conversion to electronic musicafter all, machines are supposed to be all the rage these daysbut his new Earthling is an exceptional electronic album. For starters, the 50-year-old Bowie is mature and experienced enough to know that he needn't use the music to project false rage or obscure his distinct vocal delivery; instead, he uses it as a jumping-off point for his densely compelling pop songs. And though the typical song here runs five or six minutes, there's not a lot of padding within the arrangements. Every time you think a song sounds like a tired rehash of someone else's electronic record (like the NIN-esque opening of "Seven Years In Tibet"), Bowie changes course and socks you with something entirely new-sounding. And it's all but impossible to sit still through his straight-up dance tracks, particularly "Dead Man Walking" and "The Last Thing You Should Do." Bowie knows an awful lot about reinventing himself, and he does so to great effect here. Let's hope U2's similar transformation is as creatively successful.