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David Bowie returns this year, on March 12, with a brand new album after ten years of hiatus. The Thin White Duke announced the release of ‘The Next Day’ on January 8, launching a brand new video for the lead single ‘Where Are We Now’.
The album emanates a sense of rebirth in many aspects. First of all the title, which suggests the beginning of something new after the closing of a circle. This feeling is confirmed by the artwork of the record. The cover shows the same photo featured in ‘Heroes,’ one of Bowie’s most notorious albums, but in this new cover the title Heroes is deleted by a line and Bowie’s face is covered by the title of the new album, ‘The Next Day,’ on white background. This artwork evokes the feeling of a brand new start for the artist, a new beginning after the achievement and consecration of greatness, to which ‘Heroes’ was a core player.
The sound of the album stays quite faithful to Bowie’s style, although it blends into a more experimental approach in some of the featured songs. Overall the record is superb. The album opens with the song that gives the album its name: ‘The Next Day.’ It acts like a strong statement of Bowie’s presence: “Here I am, not quite dying” Bowie proclaims, finally answering the Flaming Lips and Neon Indian, who wondered “Is David Bowie Dying?” in their collaboration. The song is catchy, powerful and straightforward; it creates an intense atmosphere for the listener from the very beginning of the album. ‘The Stars Are Out Tonight’ goes on enchanting, giving the listener the assurance that they are witnessing another piece of greatness created by this artist. In this song it is possible to find typical Bowie sonorities, pushed forward, and metaphysical lyrics, which accompany a strong and direct assessment to one’s existence. The album goes on spreading one interesting track after the other, not sparing a visit to the old Bowie, redeveloping on some of the roots of his greatest successes instead, such as in ‘You Feel So Lonely You Could Die’ which takes the listener back to ‘Five Years.’
Although this album does not have a feeling of “revelation,” Bowie seems to put himself in a different position in respect to other works. He is no longer the man going through a miserable time in life, as in ‘Station to Station’ for example, he is the man who has lived all of that, and gathered teachings out of his life experiences. He now seems to collect all of those many aspects of his life and try to design who he has become, in order to draw an imaginary present and future path. As for every human being though, the look back at the past does not only bring sense of accomplishment and gratification, but also a part of disillusionment. “Oh what have you done, what have you done?” sings the artist in ‘Love is Lost,’ liberating a sense of frustration as felt after an irreparable action.
The melancholic atmosphere sets into ‘Where Are We Now,’ which looks back at the Berlin period, one of the most prolific periods for the English artist. It is a melodic ballad, which contrasts the concepts of self-awareness to life and emotional uncertainty. This song, chosen as lead single for the album, does not really represent it in terms of sonorities. If this track is a soft and cuddling song into the renewed musical production of the Bowie, the rest of the album is pretty rocky; it comes strong and refreshing to the listener and pulses under the skin. In spite of this, there is also another enchanting ballad ‘You Feel so Lonely You Could Die’ in the album. In this song Bowie recreates the direct sustaining impact towards the listener he already expressed in the past. As in ‘Rock ’n’ Roll Suicide’ he connects directly to the lonely person listening to the album, addressing the heartbreaking living state of loneliness; it is the perfect continuum to the agonizing yell ‘You’re Not Alone!” in ‘Rock ’n’ Roll Suicide.’
A surplus in the album is surely the piano and its combination to the sax; the latter takes deep patterns in ‘Dirty Boys’ and is retrieved in ‘Boss of Me’ and other tracks. ‘Boss of Me’ has also that rockabilly and dancing attitude which can be found in ‘Dancing Out in Space’ as well. Nonetheless, guitars are undisputed heroes of the record, as elegantly shown with the roaring sounds unveiled in songs like ‘Valentine’s Day.’ The tracks that explode the most are probably ‘I’d Rather Be High,’ ‘How Does the Grass Grow?,’ and ‘(You Will) Set the World on Fire.’ The listener feels like being unable to escape the vortex into which Bowie has dragged them, feeling almost overcome, although in a pleasant way, by those tracks. The biggest surprise instead is ‘If You Can See Me,’ which is a non-typical track that sounds a little bit weird in this complex, but not enough to sound out of context.
The album is absolutely excellent; it is extremely enjoyable since the first listen and only gets better every subsequent one. Most of the tracks are excellent, and those that are not are extremely good.
Rating: SUPERB 5/5
Image Courtesy : David Bowie (Official)