so, it has in a sense arrived, then.surprisingly, as is the usual case, there has been no "leak" of the record, it's just that David "Derek" Bowie has released his somewhat anticipated first album in ten or so years, The Next Day, as a "free stream" thing. Which means you can listen to it online, and no doubt download it in a less than legal sense too. that means i can join the traditional musical press and some ten or so million other bloggers around the world offering a review of it. splendid.
i see that Mr Bowie is releasing this album via the enemy of the consumer, Sony. hopefully Bowie has signed a deal with them that leaves them with less money than he gets, but my point here is that i do not really want a "cease and desist" letter from Japan about using images they no doubt feel they own. this blog post will be illustrated, then, with pictures that i have done myself. pretty bloody awesome pictures, if i say so myself.
here is my interpretation of the cover "artwork".
feel free to save the above pic and use it as the cover for your CD of the album when it is released in a week or so. i am still struggling to accept that this is the cover for the album, as clever a play as the name of the album is on the lyrics of the title song off the "heroes" album.
i have not read a single published review of Bowie's new album. i have, however, seen the cover of all the magazines that are running the review. if you are offended by rude words, you may wish to depart this review right now.
all the traditional music press seem hell-bent on outwanking each other in regards of the album. the covers, which pretty much look like my interpretation below, all seem the same - BOWIE in big letters, random picture of the gent, and a declaration of how brilliant the album is, as well as indicating just how many pages they are going to spend wanking over David Bowie inside. that last bit does not sound right.
the music press have not gone on an uber-wank mission like this since the whole Led Zeppelin thing back in, what, 2007? when The Zep got back together for a gig for a mate, they were all of a sudden "the best thing, ever" according to the music press. today, of course, Bowie is the single most important musician ever and The Next Day is the greatest album ever.
i am, of course, a big Bowie fan. i would speculate that if you spoke to anyone that has known me over the last 40 years and asked of my musical tastes, all would say upfront Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and then they would name either Bowie or The Stone Roses as a close second in my books. no, i am not going to engage in that "well i am one of the biggest Bowie fans around" bullshit, and you should ignore anyone who takes that approach. Bowie's music has been a soundtrack for me for some 30 years, as it has been for millions of others. being a big Bowie fan, however, does not mean i intend to join in with the celebratory masturbation going on about his new record if it does not warrant it. so i suppose i should do a review, then. track by track, yeah? ok, sort of.
my first impression is "i really hope the mix is a symptom of this being a streamed sound, whatever the hell a streamed sound is". my music stag is massive and plays all very well, but every track on The Next Day on the available version seems to have the vocals muted and mixed down. best the CD does not sound like that. anyway, onwards....
The Next Day - my dear friend Shaun, aka Blondie, has a rule. his rule is that if the first song on an album is also the first single then you can guarantee that the rest of the album is complete shit. i do not recall what his rule was for the first song being the title track. this is a funky little opener, with some classic Bowie vocals struggling to get over the drums and bass. "here i am, not quite dying" is what our David sings, giving reviewers the perfect way to open their wanking ceremonies over the album and reference his health scare from the Reality tour. nice one, Dave. top tune, great opener.
Dirty Boys - oh dear. slowed down, trumpet / horn heavy blues / jazz / muso stuff with Bowie and Tony Visconti fiddling with knobs in the production booth to do all sorts of peculiar things to his voice. the song gets better in the middle when they stop doing that fiddling, but this is pure artistic indulgence, filler or "i am David Bowie and i am releasing this song so f*** you".
The Stars (Are Out Tonight) - the second single to be released, although only as one of them "download" things only. i think there is a 7" of this on the way for that "World Record Day" in April, which is good as this song is simply superb. and when i say superb, i mean at every level - musically, lyrically, vocally. what this song says, and the way he sings it, are why so many of us fell in love with Bowie's music. truly brilliant.
Love Is Lost - this feels like a Jan Hammer mood piece wrestling with some rock guitar shenanigans being refereed or perhaps commentated on by Bowie. again, i don't know if it is this streaming business, but this song would benefit from the vocal level being raised to at least the equal of the music. annoying drum machine and synth solo break in the middle aside, pretty decent.
want some more of my artistic interpretations of the new David Bowie album? of course you do. here is my expert representation of David Bowie spending two years recording this album in secret.
i know, i know, impressive isn't it? if you have one of them illegal downloads of the album and you are surfing for artwork, do feel free to use the above. anyway, back to the music.
Where Are We Now? - the surprise, birthday gift release "comeback" single. strange, really, as nothing about it screams "masterpiece" and yet the melancholic, sombre reminiscing ways of this tune make it compulsive listening. otherwise, everything that can be possibly be said of this song has been spoken already.
Valentine's Day - odd that he chose not to release this one as the second single on, well, you know what day in February, but there you go. perhaps it is not odd, maybe it did not get released as a single as it's just a solid enough studio track to make the cut for the album. not bad.
If You Can See Me - the opening is dangerously close to that "i am down on this drum and bass thing" that he showed off on Earthling, and it starts off with some singer doing one of those "sustained notes" things, the kind you normally find on a Sting or Peter Gabriel record to show you just how down on all things ethnic Sting or Peter Gabriel is. the guitar riff is class, but tends to get a bit clogged up with the continuation of the "down with the drum and bass thing" thing and indeed the mishmashed, not at all sure what this is about lyrics and vocals.
I'd Rather Be High - not, alas, a tip of the hat to Afroman. the desperation in David's vocal doesn't really sit well on the rather more happy go lucky music. seems to be a bit of an angry song. i will play this one more than i play Dirty Boys, if only marginally.
Boss Of Me - oh yes. one of the outstanding moments on the record / "stream thing whatever the hell a stream thing is". dynamic, Station To Station era guitar on it, great vocal on it even here in this apparently "mixed down" version. good stuff, David.
time for a bit more of my art to break up the text? why not. here's my interpretation of David Bowie's secret film studio where he has in secret made at least two videos to promote songs off this album.
if you download the videos and make a DVD or something of them, do please feel free to use the above picture for the artwork. i am not fussed about copyright or acknowledgement; for me it is more important that the art is spread far and wide.
back to the album.
Dancing In Space - woah, there! this song starts and treads dangerously close to the area of music that is "sounds like something that Ringo Starr might do on yet another disposable album, with Glenn Frey and Billy Ray Cyrus making a token contribution as he was a Beatle, if not a favourite one". oddly and somehow, perhaps because David is a proper musician and that, it steers away and is a really catch, class tune.
How Does The Grass Grow? - starts with a really cool piece of guitar. Bowie seems to show off a fair bit of his vocal range across the song. nothing spectacular, but nothing offensive.
(You Will) Set The World On Fire - sinister guitar and drum opening, what sounds like a classy vocal performance follows. the chorus is one that is as good as any to sing / shout / scream along to in the car. the official line from David Bowie is "there will be no tour", but there are hints that he might do one or two appearances. this one would be an absolute belter on stage.
You Feel So Lonely You Could Die - a reflective Bowie vocal performance over a quasi-50s sound. yes, it is as good as that sounds. it gets all grand and epic after a minute or so. this is a great closer, and i am very surprised that this was not slotted in as the last track on the album. top form Bowie.
Heat - whereas the previous track was what a classic album closer should sound like, this one is mostly a pondering thing that sounds like someone having a go at what they think maybe an album closer should sound like. it is not by any means a bad song, though - really strong, full on Bowie vocal here and it's an excellent piece of music. it certainly leaves you wanting more, put it that way.
So, there it is. casting an eye over what i have written, i am confident that i've not just celebrated Bowie for making a record, for that is what musicians do, but he has most certainly delivered a great record, and one that deserves to be a huge hit. without going overboard, "new" music is so dire that any new Bowie album would be a good album in this day and age. that it is a well above average album is a bonus.
in an interview not long after he recovered from his well documented health scare, David said that it would take something "really, really spectacular" to compel him to record and release something new. whilst it's unfair to hold someone to something they said 8 years ago unless it involved signing something to that effect, The Next Day is not, as it turns out, "really, really spectacular". it's really rather good, though. it will get played as often as his "classic" albums and indeed as frequently as the 3 - 4 albums released prior to this one.
no one in this world needs me or anyone else to tell them to buy a David Bowie album. i've not a clue if this review or my comments are of use to anyone then, but if they are well then splendid. i would not have a clue as to if this will attract any new fans to the world of Bowie, but that seems to be of little consequence - existing Bowie fans will love this one.
thanks for reading, and indeed for appreciating my art.
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!