On David Bowies sixty sixth birthday the world was thunderstruck to learn that rock musics greatest chameleon had been secretly working on an album for the past three years. The mournful nostalgia of Where Are We Now? broke the silence of a decades worth of apparent inactivity: The Thin White Duke, thought to be content enjoying his retirement away from the shimmer of the spotlight, was back.
Here well delve into and analyse each song on an album that is arguably one of the greatest comebacks in the history of rock music: bursting with lyrical artistry, simultaneously inventive and self-referential, and brazenly vibrant.
1. The Next Day
The opener, a scorching rock number, sets the tone for the album, and shows that the release of Where Are We Now? as the lead single was a clever misdirection. The barrage of trebly dissonant guitars and screeching riffs dont sound too far removed from Beauty And The Beast, the opening track from Heroes. Its a stormer of a first track, and a million miles away from the swirling introspection of Where Are We Now? Bowie wails and at times approaches hysteria as his dark lyrics, which according to producer Tony Visconti reference a late medieval period European tyrant, allude to the hypocrisy of the church ("They can work with Satan while they dress like the saints/ They know that god exists for the devil told them so") and recall the bleak Orwellian post-apocalyptic imagery used on Diamond Dogs ("He drags them to the rivers bank in the cart/ Their soggy paper bodies wash ashore in the dark...") Things build to a frenetic crescendo: a whirlwind of blazing guitars and pulsating beats, as Bowies lyrics invoke the sense of a man coming to terms with his own mortality ("Here I am not quite dying my body to left to rot in a hollow tree"), a theme that crops up continually on the album. RATING: 5/5