Album Review

The Next Day

The Next Day

by David Bowie

Sony Music
8 / 10
15th March 2012

Reviewed by Ricardo Kerr

You could be forgiven for thinking that David Bowie was already retired and had long ago abandoned the idea of ever making another album. Even his guest appearances, bolstering the credibility of young acts the world over, have become rare of late. Would you believe that is has been a whole decade since his last record was released? So imagine (or, indeed, remember) the world's surprise when barely a month ago it was announced that not only was there going to be another album but that it was already complete and ready for human consumption. So amidst all the hype and second guessing how does The Next Day fare?

The first song to be released from this album (Bowie's 26th overall, by the way) was the placid 'Where Are We Now?' a bold and intriguing choice for a single given its quiet, retreating nature. Offering only a glimpse of what was to come, the album actually opens at pace with the nervy and energetic 'The Next Day' followed by deconstructed jazz pop of 'Dirty Boys'. After more than 40 years as a high profile musician Bowie's instinct for writing pop music is a highly sharpened instrument, one that is practically unrivaled by any living person. On the flip side songs like 'If You Can See Me' are as disheveled and angular as one could ask for. That particular example is propelled forward by stabs of guitar, slabs of organ, and a manic beat that unpins the whole lot. It is a rare but welcome moment of roughness outside of the usual craftsman-like polish.

A lot of Bowie's own prodigious past is referenced in these songs, so they can be viewed as a compendium of past triumphs if one wishes. The garish glam era of the late 1970s now has a fitting epitaph in 'I'd Rather Be High'. It is the same situation later in the album on 'How Does The Grass Grow?' with awkward new wave. The titles, lyrics, and theme of 'Dancing Out In Space' are familiar like a euphoric Major Tom plummeting back towards terra firma after a lifetime spent in the infinite void. The album cover is even a riff on one of his classics. Yes, those meandering weepers are inevitable, the aforementioned 'Where Are We Now?' is in fine company with the melodramatic closer 'Heat' .

The Next Day, against all odds, feels like an appropriate continuance from 2003's Reality. At his age and at this point in his career it is testament to Bowie's creative drive that he hasn't fallen into the trap of releasing covers of the “great American songbook” or rehashing Motown standards. The fact that he has a vibrant, engaging album of original material at the ripe old age of 66 is, in itself, a singular achievement.

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"Stars (Are Out Tonght)"
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