Friday, 15 March 2013

At last ... The Next Day.... (David Bowie)

What you need to know - David Bowie's The Next Day really is his best since Scary Monsters and, unlike Heathen and the other albums since his classic era you'll know this immediately at first listen. It's certainly the catchiest album I've heard for ages, possibly since Yeah Yeah Yeah's It's Blitz!  Right now after third listen I've three or four tunes buzzing in my head, Stars, Valentine, Boss of Me, How Does The Grass Grow.. I've even finally appreciated the almost Vangelis Blade Runner synths in Where Are We Now

God .. The guitar on The Stars are Out sounds like the best guitar I've heard on anything in years. It helps that it comes with a brilliant Lynchian music promo.Valentine's Day could have come right off Hunky Dory, followed by If You Can See Me, which brings us right back to 2013 with a bang.

(just looking through the track list now I have another tune from The Next Day - Dancing out of Space - in my head despite listening to different stuff all of yesterday)

It's all lyrically very dark. I'd Rather Be High and How Does The Grass Grow feature anti-war  lyrics that could have come off PJ Harvey's Let England Shake

As for the help, I thought the guitar (Earl Slick?) on The Stars Are Out was Pete Townsend guesting.. and Gail Ann Dorsey.. I think I remember falling madly in love with her and her Ken Russellesque outfit at Pheonix Festival in 1996. Great to see she is still on board and I might check out some of her solo stuff (as I'm a big fan of another bassist gone solo - Melissa Auf Der Maur)

Slight suspicion Bowie has given up here trying to be groundbreaking and is rehashing rather but much as I like Heathen and Reality they did sound empty and bereft at first listen, certainly in comparison with the new one.

Full Bowie disclosure

I'm yet another Bowie nut. I was exposed at college, when Bowie was at his creative nadir in the mid-80s, by future novelist Jaine Fenn (new novel Queen of Nowhere just out) 

Jaine was desperate to stop my painful tirades about the hideously over hyped, over trendy  British pop movie Absolute Beginners, which embarrassing mid-80s mainstream pop Bowie found himself a part of. (Bowie is of course known for creating stage persona's like Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke. His persona in the Absolute Beginners/Let's Dance/Tonight/Never Let Me Down era was The Shameless Douchebag)

So mid 80s I was skeptical ....but first fell for the guitars in Man Who Sold The the World and then simultaneously fell for everything in that classic era. It's a great buzz, really getting into a musical artist and realising that that have an entire decade of brilliant work, in different flavoured eras, to enjoy. Like an audio version of five Christmases at once. This culminated in a deep synchronic bond with Scary Monsters and Super Creeps just as I discovered the neo noir of William Gibson and cyberpunk. I only recently discovered that that incredible guitar howl that opens that album is courtesy of Robert Fripp. King Crimson was my old music discovery of 2009.

So in light of his current output at the time - the Bowie narrative then (in the mid-late 80s) was more tragedy, the brilliant super cool musician reduced to cringing awful mainstream music videos with a similarly bereft Mick Jagger. It was depressing but I was primed to be positive to any subsequent releases from Bowie, and, further spiked by the discovery of Iggy Pop (via the opening titles to Repo Man) I found out Bowie was making a come back with Iggy's guitar heavy backing band...

..what I'm avoiding saying is that I've been a passionate defender of the critically reviled Tin Machine for decades..  (I am a habitual defender of lost causes ... coming soon to this blog - Quantum of Solace is better than Skyfall). Tin Machine might well be awful to most ears but it is the screeching sound of an artist jamming on the brakes and trying to turn a corner before a career ending collision. Tin Machine is Bowie's Kid A, (he just left the left turn a lot later than Radiohead), and The Next Day to me completely validates his decision to throw out his day-glo pop era and temporarily start a (very good BTW) metal band.

Of his albums since I'll also defend the Brian Eno produced Outside from a slightly more secure defensive position. Songs from Outside appeared in three classic movies of that era - Se7en, Lost Highway and Starship Troopers (but such was Bowie's lack of credibility at the time the 'edge' in Outside seemed to be credited to Trent Reznor). Interestingly looked at now the scifi themes of Outside is Bowie trying to overtly jump on the cyberpunk bandwagon late, when he seemed to have helped kicked it off in the first place with Scary Monsters.

To digress, it fascinates me that William Gibson is the only author I know to rip themes visuals and moods from movies and music. As the more mature medium this usually happens in reverse, with sci-fi movies reliably 20 years behind their written inspiration. It's an incredible tribute to to the visuals in Blade Runner that they were a direct inspirations to a ground breaking classic novel that appeared AFTER (Neuromancer - the reason I work in IT)

Black Tie White Noise makes a lot more sense when you find it was written as music  for his wedding (and congrats on that BTW, obviously a smart move, Iman must be a lovely gal, though I struggle to imagine her in the kitchen). Prompted by the first single from The Next Day I revisited Heathen which I had hated on first listen but seemed to be one of my few positives in the endless winter of London 2012-13. This blog post was to have said something like "I seem to be perpetually ten years behind Bowie" but it seems the accessibility of The Next Day has broken that theory.

One thing he has very sensibly done is movie back out of the media limelight. In the hideous Absolute Beginners/Let's Dance/Tonight era you could not turn on a tv or a radio without hearing his voice and the brutally funny caricatures of him that appeared from Stella Street and The Adam and Joe Show (all fans I'm sure) are a direct result of this. Mick & Keith take note.

So David, you are back! Hurrah!... but please stay out of the limelight and keep reclusive for at least another ten years. Let the current generation of music journos continue to wank out their careers over Morrissey - they've been dancing on your grave for decades.

No comments:

Post a Comment