David Bowie – The Next Day (2013)

Posted: March 2, 2013 in Music

thenextday

Trailblazer. Visionary. Vanguard. Genius.

Any of these terms could be easily used to define the musical career of David Bowie. With over 50 years of songs and performances in his back pocket, Bowie has cemented himself as THE icon and headmaster for the art rock scene. From the bizarre to the sublime, this musical chameleon has always seemed to be a step ahead of the rest of the world with his styles and sounds.

We’ve seen him change his colors over and over again throughout that half a century. There was the performance art of the 70’s with Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke, the suave gentlemen of the “Let’s Dance” pop-heavy 80’s, the near-punk, insanely aggressive Tin Machine era of the early 90s, and the experimental electronic Bowie that carried him towards the turn of the century. Regardless of the style or the decade, Bowie – probably more than any other artist in the history of music – continued to surprise fans and impress critics with his one-of-a-kind approach to modern music.

But as unique and admired as he is (let’s face it, there is nobody quite like Bowie), his career came to an unexpected and abrupt halt. The Spaceman suffered a heart attack in 2004, and outside of gathering lifetime achievement awards and making a few surprise appearances here and there, has remained relatively quiet over the last ten years. Many speculated that the legend’s health was continually failing, and that for as amazing of a run he had, the finish line had been crossed and the career was pretty much over.

With that said, you can imagine the shock waves that ripped through the music industry on January 13th of this year (ironically also David’s birthday) when Bowie – without any pomp and circumstance – dropped the news that he had recorded a new album, and would be releasing it in the middle of March. Keeping an album a secret is not the easiest thing to do in today’s age of album leaks and internet mischief – but then again, we are talking about a genius.

Critics such as myself have had the opportunity to hear the album, and the verdict is in. The Next Day is not only a triumphant return, but just may be the best comeback album ever made. Ever.

For me, that came as no surprise. There hasn’t been a Bowie album – dare I say even a SONG – that hasn’t left me mesmerized by the perfect artistry of it all (well, there was that trainwreck with Mick Jagger back in the day…). What we’ve come to know and love about David Bowie is basically that we know nothing about what to expect next.

But since I’ve listened to this album  (at least 50 times now), I’m going to kind of ruin the surprise for those who planned on rushing out on March 12th. If you’d rather quit reading this review at this point, I won’t take any offense – but if you want a little insight on to why this album is getting the praise it is, stay with me for a few more minutes.

BOWIE1

While the album consists of 14 brand spankin’ new tracks, the magic is in the familiarity. In a subtle way, Bowie seems to be paying homage to – well – himself.

The disc opens with the title track, filled with drum snares and guitar reminiscent of “Fashion”, only heavier. “Here I am, not quite dying” announces Bowie. You can almost see his sneering grin as he eases his way into  the next 50 minutes of musical perfection.

“Dirty Boy” carries some thick, soulful swagger – complete with horn blasts and drudging tempo. Bowie’s voice carries the track with witty lyrics and unmistakeable charm. As simple and stripped down as it gets, but insanely catchy and one of my favorite cuts on the album.

Throughout his career, Bowie has made his videos just as interesting as his songs, and that trend continues with “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” where modern-day David comes into contact with personas from his past. The track is tailor-made for both rock and adult contemporary radio, and is far more indicative of the albums content than the first single released in January “Where Are We Now?”– which is a solemn, deeply dark track that frankly pales in comparison to the rest of the record.

If you don’t pick up on the Ziggy Stardust vibe of “Valentine’s Day”, a modern take on Bowie’s glam-rock days, you really haven’t been paying attention. It’s light, it’s fun, and it’s the perfect excuse to draw a red lightning bolt down your face with your wife’s favorite lipstick.

Fast forward a few tracks (I want to leave some surprises here) to “Dancing Out In Space”. Here we find Bowie combining three different sounds from three different periods of his career. There is the toe-tapping tempo of “Let’s Dance” mixed with a little Berlin-era sound clash and a touch of Earthling drum-and-bass thump. It’s as complex as it is entertaining, and stands tall as another standout on a disc full of them.

Most of Bowie’s work borders on personal and introspective, but occasionally he takes a step back to open the doors to the world as a whole. “How Does The Grass Grow” offers a far more broad perspective of ethnic genocide and world turmoil. Add to it a eerie chorus of “la-la-la”s and disorienting guitar solos and you realize Bowie still remains as cutting-edge as ever.

Not often does David go for the throat with straightforward rock songs, but “(You Will) Set The World On Fire” accomplishes just that. The intro has a familiar sound, akin to the White Stripes, and the track just pounds away – step by step – until your completely exhausted by the end. It’s always interesting when Bowie tries something a little out of his comfort zone and sells it like he’s been doing it all along.

“You Feel So Lonely You Could Die” carries the epicness of “Space Oddity” in an euphoric conclusion to the record. It’s proud and glamorous, brash and glorious, and exactly what you would expect (if you expect greatness). The lyrics here – like so much of the rest of the album – open themselves up to all kinds of different interpretations, and that alone is enough proof that Bowie’s comeback is more of an attempt to seriously get back at it than recording some type of museum piece to be admired for a while and forget quickly.

The Next Day is exactly as advertised. Comeback album, career resurrection, whatever you want to call it. Bowie is back and better than ever, and if you doubt the truth to that, go grab the album and prove it to yourself.

Welcome home, Major Tom…

9.5/10

Tracklist:
1. The Next Day
2. Dirty Boys
3. The Stars (Are Out Tonight)
4. Love Is Lost
5. Where Are We Now?
6. Valentine’s Day
7. If You Can See Me
8. I’d Rather Be High
9. Boss Of Me
10. Dancing Out In Space
11. How Does The Grass Grow?
12. (You Will) Set The World On Fire
13. You Feel So Lonely You Could Die
14. Heat

Buy at Amazon

MySpace: Link | Wiki: Link

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s