This was the third Bowie album I bought, after Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust. I put my headphones on and pressed play, and within about three songs in I was thinking, why isn't Low generally considered Bowie's best work? The songs were more streamlined and extremely catchy. Bowie doing euro-synth-pop just made sense.
That should have been my warning sign.
The albums I love on first listen nearly always lessen over time, and most of my most adored albums didn't really grab me initially. You see, the pattern is hardly ever broken.
From that first listen on, the album hasn't grabbed me as much. I do still love the first, poppy side, but the second - the atmospheric and instrumental side - seems like an afterthought of meddling and wandering atmospherics.
The other thing I've come to realize is that even the songs from the first half don't seem complete. It's frustrating to listen to the opening instrumental, "Speed of Life," and think of what Bowie could've done with that song if he'd added vocals and maybe expanded on it a little more. Instead, I feel like I'm listening to house music being played while waiting for the final act to come on stage.
When things do come together, they come together very well. "Breaking Glass," "Sound and Vision," and "Be My Wife" are prime examples of how well Bowie can pull off pop music (albeit with a little help from some guy named Eno).
If you split the album into two and reserved them for different listens, I'd probably give the second side more respect. As it is, the drastic change in direction is way to arbitrary and nonsensical and ultimately detracts from the album as a whole.
To me, this will always be Bowie's album of unfulfilled potential.