Review: The Next Day

Eclipsing UKIP’s attempt to stage the comeback of the year, 2013 sees David Bowie release his first studio album in 10 years.  Luckily whilst the former attempts to inject modern racism into traditional Thatcherism, Bowie presents an album which blends some of the best parts of the last few decades whilst still sounding new and original.

When a long awaited album from an old hero surfaces there are two things you must ask yourself ñ would I still like this if it was produced as a first album by an unknown band? Are we just listening to reminisce the past or is it an album that would be praised in the decades it takes inspiration from?  My humble opinion answers a resounding yes to both.

I am biased in my views, being a few record shy of collecting all 24 of his studio albums on original 12-inch vinyl, but will attempt to be subjective.  This is not his best album, nor is it consistently strong.  The last few songs start to get a little bit too proggy and, dare I say it, his first single ‘Where Are We Now?’ was a little pedestrian.  I doubt any songs on it will ever be compared to the likes of ‘Life on Mars’, ‘Changes or Starman’, and he wisely stays clear of the high notes, knowing some of his limitations at 66, unlike some of his contemporaries (I’m looking at you Mr Dylan).

David Bowie's The Next Day

 

Ok, negatives over, I love this album.

Opening track ‘The Next Day’ kicks in quick with the trademark Bowie drawl and by the time the chorus bursts on the scene with ‘here I am, not quite dying’ you know we’re back.  His lyrical genius is as strong as ever, segments of narrative cluttered amongst sublime surrealism.  His second single, ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’ is an amazing song, but if you haven’t yet, watch the accompanying video.  Directed by Floria Sigismondi and starring Bowie himself and the excellent Tilda Swinton as a married couple, it may very well be one of the best short films of the past decade, reminding you that when Bowie gets his acting right, he is really something.

‘Valentine’s Day’ is another great example of his way of beautifully conveying emotion.  ‘If You Can See Me’ is another album highlight, a great furious little track, sentences stumbling away from panicked drums.  Future stoner favourite ‘I’d Rather Be High’ sounds as you would hope a track titled as such would, with great lines such as ìIíd rather smoke and phone my ex, be pleading for some teenage sex.

‘Dancing Out In Space’ is a nice dreamy, jumpy number before ‘How Does the Grass Gow’;  like the soundtrack to a motion picture of The Lone Ranger if it featured Ziggy Stardust as Tonto (hold that thought, Iíll start working on the screenplay, does anyone have Christopher Nolanís number?).

With such a high profile, Bowie could have easily rushed out a mangled collection of oddities and it would have still sold as well as effigies of Thatcher.  He could have just re-issued any of his old albums with a couple new tracks if he needed the money.  He could have released an average album, and it would probably still have made critics’ top 10 lists by the end of the year.  He could have just gone on tour like so many other reformed bands, charge ridiculous amounts for him to play his favourite B-sides.  He did not.

Instead he made what may be one of the finest albums released this year, he made this not because he wanted people to remember him but because this is what he does.  He is an artist, a performer, a man who writes spectacular pieces of art, and influences generations.  This is a triumphant album, and if it does become his swan song, he will have finished on a high, with his legacy as one of the greatest musicians the world has ever seen.

Simon Boyd

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