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The Next Day

David Bowie - 2013

Friends, let me open with a confession. I am a now and have been for many years, a David Bowie fan. I treasure his albums. There is a special place in my heart for the classics as well as some of the less popular titles in his truly remarkable canon. It is for this reason dear reader that I simply cannot be objective here. This review will come baggage and all. It won’t matter a great deal however since the Thin White Duke ain’t building his audience with The Next Day. Ouch is one of the few words that I can use to describe the quality of this latest record. Never before has an album shown us that an artist can burn out AND fade away. Admittedly, heart surgery would slow down the most driven of performers and indeed the Youngest Americans alike. But whether it’s increasing age or diminishing health, The Man Who Fell to Earth has suffered some rather serious injuries and the effects are felt throughout this album. While we’re lucky to have Mr. Jones still with us, the other elder statesmen of rock are faring far better as they enter their Golden Years. For example, Elton is also 66 years of age and he sounds great on The Diving Board! Please allow me to share with you why this effort has left me so Low. The Next Day has been universally praised by critics. They have hailed this come back from an aged Ziggy Stardust as an absolute triumph. This upsets me no end but not because they find hidden depths in this album. No, I’m distraught by the insinuation that The Next Day is as important or as mind blowing as any part of the Berlin trilogy! Am I Aladdin Sane here?! Well, if we’re to call this a sympathy vote then I’d better have some pretty bloody good reasons as to why I find TND less than Hunky Dory, right? Let’s start with the first single. ‘Where Are We Now?’ was released ahead of the album in January of 2013 and the chameleon of popular rock chose to use his infamous broken delivery on this track. Bowie has a great many masks to choose from at this point in his (r)evolving career and I’ve always enjoyed this fragile approach to his performance. You can imagine my utter astonishment then when I realized half way through this track that this was no act. This was all our Star Man could muster. What happens when you have something to say but can no longer say it? All I wanted was for someone to get the poor gent an oxygen tank and a comfy seat in the nearest nursing home, tout suite! My suspicions were confirmed when the album dropped in March and the title track felt as flat and forced as any rock vocal ever has. You can’t blame it all on a master such as Visconti but he should have had a better understanding of what he was working with. ‘The Stars are Out Tonight’ was the second single and made it all the way to number 102 in the UK chart. There is in this track another sad truth. To begin with, you have to understand that the Bowie backing vocals are the stuff of legend. Lou Reed half joked that he made Bowie the producer of Transformer in ’72 just for the back up singer! If we’re honest, it was Bowie’s vocal support as much as his influence and talent as a multi-instrumentalist that helped make Iggy’s The Idiot a truly great record. With this in mind, the gasps of breath that pass as hooks behind ‘The Stars are Out Tonight’ are a sign that this approach to his songwriting no longer works. I’m getting very wound up at this point and while I could go on about the lyrical content and laughable marketing of this record, the fact is that this is the Bowie album that should never have seen the light of day. Not this day or The Next. The real heartbreak with The Next Day of course, is that Bowie is renowned for his talent as an artistic phoenix. He has regenerated more times than Dr. Who! This was a real opportunity for him to discover a new mature path. I’m not suggesting that David go gentle into that good night and stumble into adult-contemporary but he was asked to saddle up on a rock record with humiliating results. The only lock and load we’re onto here involves an ambulance. I’m only harsh in this review because I want The Goblin King to move past expectations and deliver a final chapter worthy of his arc. I look forward to the next Bowie album if he’s up for it but I hope that he returns with some very real Changes.

Posted by C. Scott

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Comments

I found it to be pretty forgettable, which is what I expected. I remember there being a couple of decent tracks, but I haven't had time to revisit them to see if they're worthy of repeat listens.

Posted about 5 years ago by TambegifTambe

Posted: 01/03/2014