Release Date: Mar 12, 2013
Record label: Sony Music Entertainment
So THAT’S how you stage a comeback. The last time we heard from David Bowie was in September 2003 – a world, lest we forget, with no Twitter, no Facebook, no YouTube and where iTunes was only six months old – with the Reality album. And since then, after a heart attack onstage in Germany, it’s been pretty much silence, with most people presuming that one of the most influential artists of his generation had quietly slipped into retirement.
David Bowie has sung a song or two about outer space before. But "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)" is one of the greatest songs the man has ever written, soaring on guitar and strings and that uncanny voice. Bowie sings about two lovers looking at the night sky, where they see the whole universe buzzing with activity: "We will never be rid of these stars/But I hope they live forever." They feel the stardust in their hearts blaze to life.
David Bowie has always been a contrarian. Even during the height of his mainstream popularity in the early ‘80s, there was something vaguely sinister and uneasy about the way he endeared himself to us. Behind the designer suits and positive, ‘drug free’ messages, one could sense that constructing radio-friendly songs was just another intellectual game that Bowie was occupying himself with until the next sounds and visions came along to distract him.
We're only a few months in, and 2013 has already been an outstanding year for long-reclusive artists to crawl out from their hiding places. Unlike My Bloody Valentine's similar release of m b v, rumors hadn't even existed of a new David Bowie record before The Next Day's announcement on the artist's 66th birthday. After a decade of fan speculation that Bowie might be done or—worse—dying, it seems our fears were for naught and our patience has been rewarded.
We might have discovered Bowie wasn’t an alien years ago, but it’s possible he could still be a wizard. After years of silence, the surprise 8 January, 5.01am (12.01am where he lives in New York – the first minute of his 66th birthday) dropping of new single Where Are We Now? ensured that the world was dazzled by Bowie’s sudden revealing act come breakfast-time. Yet while the internet (and the fact that, until that morning, it seemed as though we had more chance of a JD Salinger resurrection than a new Bowie album) has given him the tools to make such a stunning guerrilla move, it’s also enabled many a leak over the years.
Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) is a great David Bowie record, and a weary reminder of how frustrating his output has been since its 1980 release. Plenty of established acts have albums like Scary Monsters (Bruce Springsteen's Tunnel of Love, Metallica's â?¦And Justice For All, the Cure's Wish) that are generally regarded as "the last good one," if at least for a while. While Bowie had more commercially successful records, with Let's Dance being the biggest example, Scary Monsters can be thought of as the last time his artistic and commercial execution was at its best.
David BowieThe Next Day[Iso / Columbia; 2013]By Josh Becker; March 15, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGI'll admit that I didn't think I'd have the chance to review a new David Bowie album, but here we are, ten years after Reality and with little forewarning. It's difficult to consider new releases by legacy artists like Mr. Bowie--artists who have nothing left to prove, who have already cemented their legacy and, common wisdom assumes, whose best work is behind them--on their own terms, and many of the reviews I've seen for The Next Day spend as much time discussing Bowie 'The Reclusive Artist' as they do discussing, you know, the album.
“Here I am, not quite dying,” David Bowie shouts on the chorus of the title track of The Next Day, his first album in 10 years. The lyric speaks for itself. It’s a defiant spit in the face of the doubters and a declaration of everlasting relevancy. It’s also a perfect gateway to The Next Day’s larger theme of mortality.
David Bowie’s real late career comeback – as opposed to the skilfully orchestrated media orgasm we’re currently living through – actually came in 2002. That was the year he released Heathen, the album on which he waved goodbye to the endearingly prolific dilettantism of his Nineties and reinvented himself as… David Bowie. Reuniting the former David Jones with long-term producer Tony Visconti, Heathen was a set of tuneful, finely wrought art-pop/rock songs that reenergised Bowie’s long-suffering fanbase, restored his commercial fortunes and hooked in some new fans too.
Backed by the kind of debauched glam-rock chug that powered 1973's Aladdin Sane, David Bowie declares, “Here I am, not quite dying,” with acidic sarcasm on the title track of his new album, The Next Day. Mere months ago, most people's perception of Bowie was of a ghostly, waiflike figure, perhaps in terminal decline, occasionally glimpsed haunting New York following his withdrawal from public life in the wake of a heart attack in 2004. The re-emergence of the Thin White Duke, then, is shocking not just because of the time he's spent out of the limelight, but in the manner of his return.
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When David Bowie chose to break a decade's silence by releasing a single, Where Are We Now?, on his 66th birthday, dissenting voices were hard to find amid the clamour made by people eager to welcome him back. Some argued that the clamour was part of the problem: it drowned out the music, which perhaps wasn't worthy of the noisy excitement it had caused. The reason people were so thrilled Bowie was back, they suggested, was founded in the music he made in the 1970s, a decade when almost every new album he released was an astonishingly sure-footed leap forward into uncharted territory.
Before there was Ziggy, Aladdin, Halloween Jack, the Man Who Fell to Earth, the Thin White Duke, Major Tom, the Goblin King, The Dame, the Mid-Life Crisis Soul Patch, and all the rest, there was the Mask. In 1969, when David Bowie was just another struggling London songwriter desperate for a break, he shot a promotional film to showcase his particularly dramatic brand of performance. Along with a handful of songs-- including an early version of "Space Oddity" in which a tinfoil-helmeted Bowie is seduced by a couple of space sirens-- the reel included an original mime piece called "The Mask".
When The Next Day was announced, speculation ran rampant. The first single, ?Where Are We Now??, presented David Bowie musing on the Berlin he inhabited almost 40 years ago. The radical album art defaces the centerpiece of his ?Berlin Trilogy?, “Heroes”. Tony Visconti, his frequent collaborator who produced that period, was back.
Early in his career, David Bowie realized that reinvention came naturally to him, and soon the spirit of change became his prime persona. Through all of his alternate guises — space alien, drugged-out cartoon, machine-obsessed private detective, guy who just discovered the Pixies — he’s maintained a spectacularly consistent inconsistency, and while not all of it has worked, at least we always knew that another character was coming right behind. For the past decade, however, his chief guise has been Invisible Man.
Say this for David Bowie: he has a flair for drama. This abiding love of the theatrical may not be as evident in the production of The Next Day as it is in its presentation, how Bowie sprung it upon the world early in 2013 following a decade of undeclared retirement. Reasons for Bowie's absence were many and few, perhaps related to a health scare in 2004, perhaps due to a creative dry spell, perhaps he simply didn't have songs to sing, or perhaps he had a lingering suspicion that by the time the new millennium was getting into full swing he was starting to be taken for granted.
David BowieThe Next DayIso/ColumbiaRating: 3.5 stars (out of 5) You’d think we’d all know by now that David Bowie is going to stay one step ahead of the rest of us, and yet he still continues to confound and startle us with his maneuvers. 2013 has been a particularly jaw-dropping year in the Bowie calendar. First, he dropped a beautiful single called “Where Are We Now?” without any warning.
Few musicians are as aware of their own image and legacy as David Bowie. Of course, he's switched up his brand almost as regularly as others change their underwear, which makes his newest performance particularly interesting: this time he's playing himself, but every version of that self. Coming as a surprise after we'd all assumed he'd retired, The Next Day seems intended to be his last album and should be seen as a carefully crafted conclusion to a long and varied career.
Not even David Bowie himself makes a secret of the fact that The Next Day makes no effort to tread new territory; just look at the album art, whose white square, rather than fully eclipsing the Heroes cover, instead evinces the impossibility of obscuring and fully transcending a musical past so decorated with beloved and acclaimed albums. Rather than fight it, The Next Day borrows heavily from his "Berlin" trilogy and, especially, the follow-up LP, Scary Monsters. The album's highlights — "Dirty Boys," "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)," "If You Can See Me" — bear all the sonic trademarks of his late-'70s work: the hollowed-out, metallic guitar tones, the repetitive phrasing, and the vocal layering that makes his voice sound like a full chorus.
The thought of their own mortality does peculiar things to people. Often it makes elder statesmen release records such as Johnny Cash's American Recordings suite – a final corpus of work that retroactively imparts all that came before with more gravitas. In his seventh decade, David Bowie remains unlike all the other old dudes. Death stalks his 24th album – one crafted in secrecy redolent of the tomb.
That quote was from Legs McNeil’s Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, and it always pops into my head when I think about David Bowie. It’s rare that a personal excerpt so perfectly aligns with our collective perception of a public figure, but there’s a nice symmetry here. Angela went on to say that trip was when a big part of her love for him died, explaining how the clueless vanity in a wildly different culture was nothing short of revolting to her.
So this is what it’s like to be astonished by a new David Bowie album. Though I was living and breathing way back in the fall of 1980, I was much too young to have appreciated the release of Bowie’s last masterwork Scary Monsters. The thirty-plus years that separate Scary Monsters from his latest release haven’t exactly found Bowie in creative exile, wandering in the desert.
A triumphant, almost defiant, return – innovative, dark, bold and creative. Jude Clarke 2013 Even after 10 years away from the spotlight, David Bowie – pop’s most important post-Beatles innovator – still commands unrivalled levels of fascination. Just when it seemed that he had slipped into a dignified retirement, which no one would have begrudged, the world awoke one morning in January to the remarkable news of not only a single, Where Are We Now?, available immediately, but also this album.
Is there a press release? “Just come to the office, read an interview with Tony Visconti, and maybe listen to Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and Lodger a bit. We don’t know anything more than that.” On arriving at said office, nervous and excited, a few more titbits of information were revealed. David Bowie had been working on this record for three years.
"Then we saw Mishima’s dog, trapped between the rocks, blocking the waterfall/ The songs of dust, the world would end/ The night was always falling, the peacock in the snow" 'Heat' Time takes another cigarette. In a way, David Bowie is history. The last year has seen an acceleration of this chronological inevitability, with related exhibitions popping up everywhere from the V&A to the Tate Liverpool and an increasingly grateful acknowledgement from the heritage mags that he is as much a part of the embalmed pantheon as the Sixties or Punk.
Call it knowingly coy, but there was something majestic about David Bowie answering the question that so many have asked of him for years—where did he go—with a ballad called “Where Are We Now?”, the first single from his first record in a decade. The song, a curious choice to lead an altogether uptempo album, was perhaps picked for how it showcases Bowie’s trademark amorphousness, the way it starts with timeless cocktail chords and surges into a finale urgent and nostalgic at once, and its release was thus a multi-tiered Event: a celebration that Bowie hasn’t yet been reduced to shilling tunes in Starbucks, an invite to contextualize this new work by revisiting his ripened canon, and a reminder that while possibly alien the man is hardly immortal, that he still bends to the same snags of aging as us all. It’s a strange thing to reconcile, the wry and measured Bowie of today with the prolific and psychotic Bowie of the ’70s—all five or six of them—who sang of Orwellian doom and the bleakness of life ahead.
A decade away from music. An album recorded in secret, announced with minimal information. The only hype generated from our own thirst for information, and a supporting cast, producer Tony Visconti and guitarist Earl Slick, finally legally allowed to talk about it. Few artists could get away with this.
Whether you think David Bowie a thieving magpie lifting others' ideas or a genius twisting passions to his own vision, there's no denying The Next Day cannibalizes one particular artiste: himself. Reunited with longtime producer Tony Visconti, Bowie revisits creative visions past on his first album in a decade. "Dirty Boys," "I'd Rather Be High," and the title track sound like outtakes from Scary Monsters, while "Dancing Out in Space," "How Does the Grass Grow?", and "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)" ride an Eighties vibe.