David Bowie – The Next Day (2013)

Everybody’s praise Bowie and his brand new “The Next Day” album, which comes after a heart attack and a serious 10 years gap. The 66 year old Bowie announced the release of his new album at his 66 birthday.
True, between the fabulous 2003’s “Reality” and this brand new album we had “Toy”, in March 2011, Bowie’s previously unreleased album from 2001 (another 10 years gap fulfilled), which leaked onto the internet, containing material used for “Heathen” and most of its single B-sides, but, that was just a bitter-sweet delicatessen for inpatient fans and “pour le connaisseur”, isn’t it?
The cover for “The Next Day” was designed by Jonathan Barnbrook, and it plays on the iconic cover of 1977’s “Heroes” – witch was the second installment of his Berlin Trilogy with Brian Eno, while the cover photo was shot by Masayoshi Sukita. And somehow “The Next Day” it’s a trip back to Berlin, a journey in the search of lost (and eventually find) love, soul, spirit or anything else. Or a seek and hide with Mr. Death. But the first released single, “Where Are We Now?” take us back to Berlin literally and emotionally. So, Ziggy Stardust is back and he’s gonna eat your heart out!

So, this is one of the most generally acclaimed releases lately, gathering almost everywhere 5 stars out of 5.
Neil McCormick in the columns of The Telegraph wrote that it’s “an absolute wonder: urgent, sharp-edged, bold, beautiful and baffling, an intellectually stimulating, emotionally charged, musically jagged, electric bolt through his own mythos and the mixed-up, celebrity-obsessed, war-torn world of the 21st century.”
Andy Gill wrote on the pages of The Independent that “It’s certainly rare to hear a comeback effort that not only reflects an artist’s own best work, but stands alongside it in terms of quality, as The Next Day does.”
Alexis Petridis for The Guardian noticed that this is “an album that’s thought-provoking, strange and filled with great songs.”
And Will Hodgkinson in The Times concise: “a great album, and a sense of mystery”.
And honestly, it’s hard not to praise Bowie. I heard “Heroes” for the first time at the age 7, it was one of my mom’s pearl in her vinyls collection and listening “The Next Day” bring back some of the memories of those days. Strangely, feels like from a very different time, different place and different life – or dream, or film…

But while I have “Heroes” very deeply buried in my memories, and all the connections are obviously there with “The Next Day”, I can’t stop myself comparing this new album with his direct predecessor, “Reality”. And while “Reality” was full with boiling blood grooves, powerful and breathing, genuine rock songs, “The Next Day” feels not totally resigned, but more like the memories of an old, wise, still dreaming, but waving goodbye artist. This might be Ziggy Stardust’s last letter of 14 chapters to the humans. On the other hand, watching the video of “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” it’s hard not to think of the growing famous disciples like Marilyn Manson and the message for them it’s pretty clear: “Here I am, not quite dying, my body left to rot in a hollow tree” – just as he sings in the title track.

Tracklist:

01 – The Next Day
02 – Dirty Boys
03 – The Stars (Are Out Tonight)
04 – Love Is Lost
05 – Where Are We Now?
06 – Valentine’s Day
07 – If You Can See Me
08 – I’d Rather Be High
09 – 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

Bowie and producer Visconti worked in secret alongside long-term engineer Mario J. McNulty, recording the album over a two-year period.
At the first one-week recording session Sterling Campbell was on drums, Visconti on bass, David was on keyboards and Gerry Leonard was on guitar.
For the final recordings Bowie used some of the musicians he have worked with in the past, including guitarist Earl Slick, Gail Ann Dorsey (bass guitar) and Sterling Campbell (drums), who have both worked with Bowie since the 90s. Drummer Zachary Alford and guitarists Gerry Leonard and David Torn were hired for the sessions while saxophonist Steve Elson has also worked with Bowie since the 1980s. While Visconti also contributed bass.

The first impression is that this is one of the darkest, gloomiest album Bowie ever released. Intimate, but disturbing, not always pleasant memories and sometimes some shattered regrets are merged down here and finally, after a too long break of silence, finally they are released. “The Next Day” it’s the unspoken, the hidden monster under the bed or the last waltz of the skeletons from the closet. A sad, but necessary last dance.

“The Next Day” have a healthy funk rock groove and a strong 70’s aroma, it’s one of the heaviest song from the album while the lyrics are still pretty macabre. But definitively, one of the songs still pumping life throughout.
“Dirty Boys” have some very Tom Waits-like flavour verses and a genuine Bowiesh chorus with a little bit sweeter taste, although the lyrics mentioning things like “we have no choice”, so…
“The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” it’s pretty burlesque. Bring to the surface some 80’s grooves, but everything it’s much gloomier while Bowie sings ““The stars are never sleeping, Dead ones and the living”. Celebrity and oblivion makes a quite desperate couple here.
“Love Is Lost” it’s a very strong post-rock anthem, perhaps my favorite track from the album along with the first single “Where Are We Now?”. This one reminded me “Hallo Spaceboy”. Simply great!
“Where Are We Now?” it’s a very emotional, smooth, still quite bitter ballad. Hard not to feel it while dead, dying and death are stubborn shadows reappearing in each and every song… “Walking the dead”… But I love it.
“Valentine’s Day” it’s the earliest track recorded for the album, take us back to the early 70’s sound and feel, not a very love song actually, the bitterness it’s all over and throughout.
“If You Can See Me” almost feels like a left-off from the 1997’s “Earthling”, it’s noisy, chaotic and contorted, although less electronic and dance-oriented.
“I’d Rather Be High” returns to the late 70’s. early 80’s feel, even including a quite The Beatles flavoured chorus and synth layer. Feels sunnier, although it isn’t. And how it could be when Bowie sings again about dead? “I’d rather be flying, I’d rather be dead, than out of my head…”
“Boss of Me” it’s another strong post-rock ride with some Morphine flavour while Steve Elson returns with his baritone saxophone. Addictive by simplicity.
“Dancing Out In Space” have a pretty indie-(dream)-pop flavour and it’s probably one of the most dance floor friendly track of the album, although the chorus it’s pretty twisted out and it’s something sick about the whole “dancing fact to face” thing. I guess nothing is what it seems.
“How Does the Grass Grow?” it’s build on another series of strange juxtaposition, it’s a pretty twisted in and out ride of different sounds and vibes and solid rock moments are drowned into a quite weird falsetto “yah-yah-yah-yah”.
“(You Will) Set the World On Fire” it’s almost a classy rock anthem. The opening riff recalls Yes’ “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” while the chorus it’s another genuine, hook and powerful Bowie classic. This might be the very next single while it’s one of the solidest and most radio-friendly track of the album.
“You Feel So Lonely You Could Die” bring back the melancholy of “Where Are We Now?” although this one gets further dramatic. “I can see you as a corpse….” How sweet, isn’t it?!
“Heat” close the album with a tensioned, self-searching trip. It seems he finally find the solution for the haunting duality, but it also feels like another illusion. Or lie.

David Bowie – Official Site
David Bowie – Art
David Bowie @ Facebook
David Bowie @ YouTube

David Bowie – The Next Day (2013) at iTunes

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