For Your Consideration: The Next Day

It has been a decade since the release of David Bowie’s last album, Reality. It was during the tour for the album that Bowie suffered a heart attack that sidelined him from any sort of major musical project, only contributing to other people’s work or making sporadic appearances. Then, on his birthday, with no warning, a release of a brand new song and the announcement of brand new album, dubbed The Next Day. It was worth the decade wait. Bowie is back and just as great as he ever was.

There is always a caution with the later years of a legendary music star’s output. The disappointment of never reaching the highs that catapulted them into the status fills their late albums that are usually filled with clunkers and unrealized potential. Like Bob Dylan’s release last year with Tempest, Bowie’s The Next Day is a much welcome addition to his catalogue.

Through his career Bowie was never content with being a simple music star. He was a multi-faceted performer-rockstar, actor, goblin king. Each album and live show went beyond normalcy with Bowie reinventing himself from the ground up every few years.. He would create new identities, like Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, and Halloween Jack, and with each new look, new sound was born. What was so disappointing with his later albums was it seemed that he no longer reinvented himself or was on the forefront of a new stage of music but just riding along with whatever was happening. With The Next Day it doesn’t seem the old game of reinvention is back but more of a filter of his entirety, but one that doesn’t sound like a retread or greatest hits. It is an amazing work of sleight of hand. Bowie, the trickster, the magician, has taken what was once old and recreated it into something that sounds new. Just look at the album cover, recycled from his “Heroes” album with a white square over Bowie’s face with The Next Day written on it. Old words are crossed off with new ones that seem hastily written in. What was old, is new again, and we are all part of Bowie’s joke.

For a star that was always about rebirth, a running theme through most of his album was that of finality, from his very first pop-rock self-titled debut with “Please, Mr. Gravedigger”. It ends the jovial, upbeat album with what sounds like a near-death young man pleading. It continues through his works- with Ziggy Stardust rocking out at the end of the world, Halloween Jack kicking it in an Orwellian future, The Thin White Duke at the end of his rope, or trying for a last ditch effort of recovery in Berlin. If The Next Day is turning everything on its head then, yes, it is rife with finality but a much more melancholic light. The young Bowie when talking about death and the end was skewing it with unabashed glee. He would spit in Death’s face and kick it in it’s knees. The Next Day seems to have embraced and accepted that the end will come. Gone is the youthful rebellion, replaced with a quiet reserve.

The album opens up with the title track, “The Next Day”. Although the song seems to promise a much more optimistic notion, the track is like the rest of the album with playing on expectations, it’s a song about a man’s continuous torture. If there was any question of whether or not Bowie still had it, then this is the song that would dispel any doubt. It’s a heavy and thunderous opening that sounds like it came from a younger man, one that seems even after all these years hasn’t lost his spark.  

Two singles have been released so far and have solidified Bowie’s returned to form. “Where Are We Now?” is a melancholic look back at his Berlin years. It is a beautiful look back to a tumultuous time of recovery and rebirth that creates a sense of longing and nostalgia. While, “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” covers the same ground of “Fame” but in a much more meditative, elegant way.

The rest of the album is like a grand  look back at Bowie’s storied career, one filled with easter eggs to older songs. “Boss of Me” and “Dirty Boys” are a great throwback to the “plastic soul” years. The album, yes, is filled with references to Bowie’s heyday, but does not sound like a retread. Instead, we have a man at 66 years old, taking what made him noteworthy the first place, and using that to create an album that is near perfection. It is a beautiful ode to the yesteryear but one that is constantly moving forward with each track.

The album closes off with the track “Heat”. A cold, mysterious track of a man muttering his thoughts. Calling himself a “liar” and not knowing who he is anymore. Once again this is Bowie playing around with the contextual work that fills the album, fashioned into a bleak ending. Hopefully, not signalling an end to Bowie entirely– if rumors turn out to be true there will be another on its way. Bowie has returned for the better with The Next Day, a cruel, bleak joke of an album, a complex, new work, and a beautiful tribute to the past.

Be Sociable, Share!
Filed in: Arts & Entertainment, Banner, Blog, Features, For Your Consideration, Issue Tags: ,

Related Posts

Bookmark and Promote!

© 2014 The Mechanicville Mile. All rights reserved. XHTML / CSS Valid.