Review Summary: ...
It is safe to say the whole world was taken aback after the sudden release of "Where Are We Now?" on The Thin White Duke's 66th birthday at the beginning of January. Some kept up with David Bowie's extended hiatus hoping for a new album, while others stopped awaiting or even gave up expecting one. After all, the man had nothing left to prove after 36 years during which he dropped a plethora of classics for the world to consume.
Still, Bowie returned with a lovely record only he could have released. An eclectic affair, The Next Day
is almost everything one would expect from him. There are various throwbacks to his stellar '70s material, starting from the obvious modified Heroes
cover, to the actual music. This includes traces of the 'plastic soul' of Young Americans
on the sleazy, lounge-tinged "Dirty Boys", featuring some suggestive saxophone touches, or the aforementioned Heroes
references on the title track and "How Does The Grass Grow?", respectively. Besides these, there are various other links to the past, but it wouldn't do justice to think of The Next Day
only as a reminder that Bowie still lives and can make music. On the contrary, there is a lot to love here and even though there's not that much experimentation going on (for the better of it, as Dave's quite past the time when wild experiments are welcomed), the album doesn't expand on solely tried-and-tested formulas, offering original points of view along the way.
There are few artists who can make such strong comebacks and even turn the whole project into an honest fun ride. From the sweet title track, he crushes all death-centered rumors summed up in the past decade, declaring "Here I am, not quite dying!" and the really catchy, straightforward rock tune, "(You Will) Set The World On Fire" will make anyone sing along at some point. Then there is the current single, "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)" with its' groovy bass line and simple yet effective guitar leads, that makes for an impressive track in his catalog. Also, the tongue-in-cheek lyrics gives it a characteristic flair that was sorely missed during these years of inactivity. Both "Valentine's Day" and "Love Is Lost" are another couple of highlights. The former features an infectious guitar lead and a humble, nasal vocal delivery, while the latter's more urgent instrumentation, along with the sad lyrics that tell the tale of a coming of age, facing the less pleasant side of life (in this case, love life), give the tune a more uneasy tone.
For a large part of The Next Day
, David's voice sounds timeless. He isn't afraid to showcase his still powerful voice, croon or hitting high notes, yet he is betrayed at times by age, feeling more at ease on the beautiful, past reflecting ballad, "Where Are We Now?" or the unexpectedly somber closer, "Heat". Nevertheless, a lot of artists would kill to have his surprisingly strong delivery at age 66.
As a conclusion, The Next Day
is an excellent record, that brings David Bowie back into the spotlights, but also introducing him to a new generation of listeners (myself included). This is an excellent record for newcomers to sink in and a great one for old fans, too. Anyone who gave up on Bowie needs to get this to convince themselves that he still has it no matter how skeptical one's approach might be.