Through great difficulty, I recently managed to persuade a reviewer friend of mine to let me listen to his copy of The Next Day at his apartment in the capital, Bowie’s first album in a long time. Yes, his face has appeared on television here and there, but no music, nothing new to scrape into our minds, until now. The album is going to leak any day now, that’s for sure, so you won’t be required to wait much longer.
But I do urge you to wait until you have a CD, because there’s nothing quite like the feeling of being a true Bowie fan and holding a physical copy of his latest work in your hands. It’s immense. I have to admit that my favourite thing about this record isn’t the music, which shocks even me but it is something that its producer, Tony Visconti said:
“I was walking around New York with my headphones on, looking at all the people with Bowie T-shirts on – they are ubiquitous here – thinking, ‘Boy, if you only knew what I’m listening to at the moment.”
When ‘Where Are We Now?’ appeared on the masters sixty-sixth birthday, the world sort of stepped back in shock, took a deep breath and listened to him sing. It was a simple albeit vague song about his Berlin days. Unlike any modern music, it was clear then and there that Bowie could still make music that had a meaning, and had raw talent implemented in its very core.
He is one of two living musicians that I believe are capable of demonstrating both beauty and sadness in their music, the other musician is Bob Dylan, the deceased ones are Johnny Cash and Ludwig Van, and possibly Mozart and most definitely Rachmaninoff. Perhaps Bowie did well to wait until now, because it’s certain that the shock we all feel would be far less great had he not stepped back from view, had he not gone into “exile”.
I say herein with the greatest Cheshire-cat smile printed on my face that The Next Day is one of the greatest records I’ve ever heard, along with Dylan’s Tempest, Bringing It All Back Home and of course, AC/DC’s Back In Black. The competition of intellectualism has always existed between Bowie and Dylan, whether or not they admit it. I have wondered myself, who had made the biggest contribution?
In the end I settled on Bobby for his Civil Rights days, where he shined brighter than everyone else, but Bowie has always been the star, the man with deep lyrics and a unique image and sound to top it off. Like Marilyn Manson, he is a shock artist, and this album shocked me.
When news struck of a new record I was somewhat worried… what if he’d lost his edge? What if his voice can’t do it? Or even his mind? But I concur with the other folks who’ve heard this record, it is the greatest comeback record in history. The Next Day is a simple album, there’s no gimmicks and no noise – it’s like a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, crisp, clean, intelligent.
Bowie won’t tour for this record, although he may play one or two small shows, and bravo I say! The lack of major promotion for this album is comforting because the master is returning to his roots, music, plain and simple, something many so-called “artists” these days know nothing about as they shamelessly promote their albums which are not deserving of the label “garbage.”
The album boasts works of fine art which delve into tyranny, apocalypse, love, celebrity, culture, literature and history. Not many artists can convey such images so well and so powerfully and so simply, Bowie is the undisputed master of this craft and his most notable student to my eyes is PJ Harvey, who herself boasts stellar songwriting and simple music, particularly on her latest release, Let England Shake.
For me, the great work of this record is ‘Where Are We Now?’, for its sheer beauty. It’s lyrical density and its immense sadness, which is emphasised by Bowie’s vocal deliverance, something with which he experiments heavily on tracks like Valentines Day. I cannot wait for people to hear this record because I want someone desperately to talk about it with, I want to examine the lyrics with someone, I want to scream with someone about how exciting it is, how beautiful but how sad. That’s what Bowie does to us…
No comeback in the history of music comes close to this record, which amplifies like nothing else Bowie’s incredible affinity for lyrical imagery and the conveying of beauty and sadness through words. He does people like Bob Dylan, Hemingway, Nabokov and Joyce proud. The Next Day is one of the finest albums I’ve ever heard – it’s a triumph.
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