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Great Dame: David Bowie's The Next Day Reviewed
Chris Roberts , February 26th, 2013 09:17

Chris Roberts is inspired out of his clothes and on to the dancefloor by David Bowie's glorious return

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"Then we saw Mishima’s dog, trapped between the rocks, blocking the waterfall/ The songs of dust, the world would end/ The night was always falling, the peacock in the snow" 'Heat'

Time takes another cigarette. In a way, David Bowie is history. The last year has seen an acceleration of this chronological inevitability, with related exhibitions popping up everywhere from the V&A to the Tate Liverpool and an increasingly grateful acknowledgement from the heritage mags that he is as much a part of the embalmed pantheon as the Sixties or Punk. This sits uneasily for those of us forced to accept that our youth is, therefore, now in museums.

And yet - he is still fashion, still twitching, as the artwork for The Next Day – papering over the old icons – and the self-referential new videos insinuate. Bowie Fever has, entertainingly, dominated 2013 thus far. So many sixteen-page pictorial specials, so many get-the-Bowie-look spreads (conveniently ignoring the fact that he’s a pensive 66-year-old guy in a t-shirt and a flat cap, generally bearing a becoming look of wry amusement and not, technically, a flame-haired, green-jumpsuited bisexual alien). This isn’t a bad thing: for all the shrewd, low-key release of the single and the news of this album, the media have happily taken the hint and run with it. In a recent Quietus article I pondered What It All Meant.

Here’s another thing it means: after a decade of drought, the current rebooting of Bowie-mania should see The Next Day sell pretty well and his entire body of work enjoy another welcome airing front and centre. There is pressure, though, on this album, of a degree there wasn’t on Hours or Heathen or Reality. Everyone is now expecting so much.

Fortunately, it’s great. I mean: it’s not just good, it’s great. It’s not Diamond Dogs or Young Americans or Low – get real, this isn’t the 70s and you and I are not twelve – but it’s great in that it’s not Heathen or Reality but better. No wild pioneering sonic experiments here: it’s primarily a "rock" album with plentiful twists, with the closest sibling being Scary Monsters. The gorgeous melancholy of 'Where Are We Now?' is unrepresentative.

To get a mild hesitation out of the way, I sometimes found myself pining for more ballads or tangents to break up the album’s mid-section run of half a dozen (enjoyable) roaring thumpers. Yet it starts with six mercurial wonders (that nobody else could do) that have you grinning because he’s pulled this comeback thing off big-time. They tease, tumble and twirl, referencing his past in flashes but refusing to relinquish their own personalities and identities. Moreover, it closes with two mind-blowing, show-stopping, grandstanding epics: one as baroque as 'Rock And Roll Suicide' ONLY MORE SO; one as frazzled and sinister and ticking as Scott Walker’s (ok, The Walker Brothers’) 'The Electrician'.

So more than half the album is fantastic, and the rest is very, very strong. (Every song’s a concise three or four minutes). I should say that at the time of writing I have heard The Next Day just four times. To review, I went to the PR’s office and sat in a room alone with it for a couple of hours (twice). One understands (or reluctantly accepts) the necessity for this, but it doesn’t offer the same potential for maximum enjoyment as might playing the brand new album by your favourite singer at home whenever you feel like it, nurturing obsession, repeating the tracks which instantly grab you and allowing the less obvious ones to gradually yield their treasures, discovering which bits cause you to involuntarily harmonise or jump around naked or perform a dying swan move. I, like you, have that to look forward to, and confidently predict my response will then graduate from controlled public glee to unrestrained private euphoria.

The Next Day is both crowd-pleasing (I fear I keep making the mid-album rockers sound ordinary: they’re not, they’re rich with nooks and crannies and cute subversions) and left-handed (there are countless moments here which make you double-take). If, arguably, one or two tracks could have been competent fillers on one of the mid-80s albums, Tony Visconti is never going to let that happen on his watch. Bowie is in magnificent voice (attack-and-withdrawal, simmer-and-flare) – in fact VOICES, plural, of course - and his trusted players know when he wants it kept straight and when he wants the wheels to spin incautiously. (Mike Garson is a notable absence.) Also, he’s doing more with the lyrics than he has for some time. Bowiephiles will have fun picking over the themes and sub-themes here for ages.

What’s that? Oh, you know: death, fame, apocalypse, sex, the way time diminishes things, history, war, guns, shellshock, old Americans, Britain, love, outer space, ambition, parents, children, loneliness and more death.

Enough of my so-grown-up reservations; enough bending over backwards to be objective so I can’t be accused of blind puppy-dog devotion already. Let’s dance. ("They’ll read so much into anything you give them" – Bowie to Ken Scott, discussing 'The Bewlay Brothers'.)

TRACK BY TRACK

'The Next Day'

It begins on an insistent guitar-riff and groove, echoing the Iggy-"Berlin" albums, then whooshes up a gear with Bowie adopting the most Americanised of his voices. Visconti has said it’s about the "taking down of a historical tyrant in antiquity [who] was killed by a mob", but it’d be most unlike of Bowie for it to work on one level alone. So, within its brutal lyrics ("my body left to rot in a hollow tree", "they live on their feet and they die on their knees"), naturally one discerns tickles of that "when the kids had killed the man…" feeling.

It builds to that level of theatrical near-hysteria that featured in the chants and repetitions of the Diamond Dogs album. The clipped, arch chorus growls, "And the next day, and the next – AND ANOTHER DAY!" and it’ll be a poor Bowie fan who isn’t up and posturing along within seconds, going "Wooh!" at the testing relentlessness of existence. On the home straight there are squalls of David Torn guitars from the Fripp-on-'"Heroes"' anti-genre. I heard glimpses of the melody of 'Repetition' and the feel of 'Day In Day Out', but my scribbled notes also say "'Up The Hill Backwards'… but constantly moving forwards?" It’s safe to say this is an uplifting entertainment, all-things-to-all-Bowie-eras, except with lyrics that are dark as Hell. And we’re away!

'Dirty Boys'

You’re just breathing and basking in the relief that it’s off to a flyer when he does a one-eighty, turning away from rock and striding into art-school with this stuttering staccato rhythm. Despite that unpromising title, it’s brilliant; a creepy, loping, funk thing (think 'Fame' slowed down, a little) with squonking saxes (by Steve Elson, not Bowie) that you just want to hear on a loop forever. And then the voice (treated) brings the drama. "I will buy a feathered hat/ I will steal a cricket bat/ Smash some windows, make some noise/ We will run from dirty boys." Later ("when the sun goes down and the die is cast") we run "with" (rather than "from") dirty boys. It’s a track that sounds part-Weimar, part-No-Wave, but 'Finchley Fair' gets a mention in there too. He’s nothing if not the king of juxtapositions which shouldn’t work but do.

'The Stars (Are Out Tonight)'

"Here they are upon the stairs, sexless and unaroused…" Somehow both a hymn to celebrities and a damnation of same, ("we will never be rid of these stars but I hope they live forever"), this sees a passionate, urgent vocal over an anthemic, stadium-friendly rock number. Strings come in when you don’t expect them to, and are fabulous. You can hear Bowie’s hyperactive antennae and famous faux paranoia twitching in every couplet. "They burn you with their radiant smiles and they trap you with their beautiful eyes/ They’re broke and shamed or drunk and scared…they’re waiting to make their moves on us…" Joan Crawford seen through Bette Davis eyes? Ah, here’s the video. Not far off. You ask me, this is one of the weakest tracks, straining a little.

'Love Is Lost'

This is off-the-chart THRILLING. Just Bowie, Gerry Leonard’s guitars and Gail Ann Dorsey and Zachary Alford’s rhythms, but try the epileptic tensions of side one of Low fused with the menace of 'Bring Me The Disco King'. An almost unbearably suspenseful pulse-beat, spasmodic drums and guitar scat-bursts, it builds and builds until you wonder if it’s ever going to resolve. (It does, but then reverts, as you crave it to). I want to quote every line, from, "It’s the darkest hour, you’re twenty two, the voice of youth, the hour of dread…" to "your country’s new, your friends are new, your house and even your eyes are new…" And the chorus, as such, says "goodbye to the thrills of life/ when love was good, no, love was bad/ Wave goodbye to the life without pain/ Say hello, you’re a beautiful girl."

Intimations of mortality? Recollections of earlier times? Musings on relocation to New York? Or about someone else and not about one of his own personae at all? Freudians, analyse that. Have a ball.

This is Bowie at his best (the highest praise), and I was playing it so much in the PR’s office that I began to worry they might think I wasn’t giving the rest of the album due process, which I wanted to, and ultimately did. But sometimes with pop music you fall in greedy selfish more-more-more love, and 'Love Is Lost' will do that to any Bowie fan. I’m getting tingles just thinking about it now.

'Where Are We Now?'

You know this one. The "it’s-all-about-Berlin" decoy; the Trojan horse. Beautiful. Sad. Barely there at first, then emotionally indelible. Flawless.

'Valentine’s Day'

At once familiar yet fresh, and the kind of pop joy we’d once have described as "an obvious single". Finger-snaps, a hefty twangy guitar riff, a natural swing and a song that might have featured on [lost Bowie album] Toy. Bowie chooses his 60s "London" voice. Earl Slick on fire. "Sha la la"s in the background. As standardly-shaped yet confidently classic as 'Absolute Beginners'. Despite the buoyant feel and a wonderfully youthful holler of "Yeah! Valentine! Valentine!" it’s about all the madmen with guns. A state-of-the-States song, like several here.

'If You Can See Me'

Frantically intense, increasingly operatic. Ferocious rhythms akin to 'Look Back In Anger'. The bewildering interplay of voice, song and music take a while to assimilate: I have to say that this, splendidly, is a bit prog. More Outside than "Heroes". The vocal is high and mighty: "Now you could say I’ve got a gift of sorts/ A fear of rear windows and swinging doors." Another masterpiece of pop paranoia. Finally it ends on a lofty keyboard drone like a blissful cow mooing.

'I’d Rather Be High'

A shell-shocked war veteran, still a teenager, bemoans his plight and craves rehab. He’d "rather be dead, or out of my head". Feels, in parts, like psychedelic UK pop Traffic or Family might have emitted, or The Stones’ 'We Love You', with the Hunky Dory voice pulled out of the locker. Another massive chorus. Here’s a couplet: "I stumble to the graveyard and I lay down by my parents/ Whisper: 'Just remember, duckies – everybody gets got.'" Here’s another: "I’d rather smoke and phone my ex/ Be pleading for some teenage sex… yeah!" It also namechecks Nabokov.

'Boss Of Me'

A big, brassy, straightforward, mid-tempo pop song about a girl. In a good way. With lovely flickering bass by Tony Levin and saxophone from Elson. Harmonic variations on "Who’d have ever thought of it? Who’d have ever dreamed/ That a small-town girl like you could be the boss of me?" Effortlessly likeable.

'Dancing Out In Space'

'Modern Love' tempo, 'Dancing With The Big Boys' adrenalin, silvery guitar twirls from Leonard and Torn. A camp, upbeat, catchy pop song until halfway through it mutates in a how-did-they-do-that way into something more twitchy, taut and discordant like the "Berlin period". "Girl you move like water/ You got stars upon your head…"

'How Does The Grass Grow?'

Visconti’s said the title comes from a chant British WW2 soldiers recited as they bayonetted dummies. It’s fast staccato rock again, punctuated by Bowie singing, oddly, a hookline from The Shadows’ 'Apache'. David Torn is channelling Stevie Ray Vaughan on the Let’s Dance album. More mention of guns and blood. It does that classic Bowie trick of everything changing into a different song for the middle eight. There’s an extraordinary stark breakdown and coda which could be The Velvets jamming 'Waiting For The Man'…

'(You Will) Set The World On Fire'

A genuinely heavy, grungey, guitar riff, but more Pin-Ups than Tin Machine. Immediately friendly chorus with a dash of 'Time Will Crawl'. Visconti’s strings are rather T. Rex; Slick’s solo shreds. "Kennedy would kill for the lines that you’ve written". My reading is that this might be a rallying call to David’s daughter, though I’m sure there will be many other interpretations. "I can hear the nation cry, I can see the magazines…" But enough ridiculously good art-rock, what we need now is a show-stopping torch song...

'You Feel So Lonely You Could Die'

And they don’t come much better than this. You like 'Wild Is The Wind' and 'Lady Grinning Soul' and 'Rock And Roll Suicide' but thought he’d never go there again? Thought maybe the voice had lost the fire for such grandstanding? Welcome to your happiest dream of epic wallowing in sadness. Remember when Bowie covered 'I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday' on Black Tie White Noise? Now just imagine he’d got it right.

After a subtle doo-wop intro, strings do their thing and the exposed vocal comes in with great intimacy and candour. There are grey buildings (in my head it’s Manhattan), there are people, and then "no-one ever saw you moving through the dark/ Leaving slips of paper somewhere in the park…" You know it builds. You know it swells. You probably weren’t expecting more guns and blood on this one, but there they are, along with backing vocals from Gail and others that are as exquisitely placed as 'Satellite Of Love'.

"I want to see you clearly before we close the door…I can see you as a corpse hanging from a beam…I can feel you falling, hear you moaning in your room…Oh see if I care. Please, please make it soon…"

His last note is majestic. Then a chord. What a finale, right? But now what’s this? Oh, only the drum pattern from 'Five Years' knowingly brought in for thirty spooky, shivery seconds, and taking us out, full circle, self-referencing, self-mocking, and of course self-mythologising. And yet so much more powerful and moving than such "inauthenticity" is "supposed" to be. With Bowie, ‘twas ever thus. He knows you know he knows, but that doesn’t alter the fact that time is passing, faster than ever. You’re not alone. Or, y’know, maybe when you’re older, you are.

'Heat'

Any sensible comeback album would end on that juddering high. Curtain, bows, bouquets. The Next Day is too alive (and dare we say it, uncalculated) to be sensible. 'Heat' is a burring, prickling curveball, Bowie singing with acoustic guitar but backed by washes of white noise, Gail Ann Dorsey emulating Jaco Pastorius, and other atmospherics. You think it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before until a penny drops and you go: hang on…The Walkers’ 'The Electrician'. The time-honoured Engel-Bowie cross-fertilisation is an open secret but this may be its finest fulmination. And as if the previous track didn’t stare mortality in the eye coldly enough, the refrain here is: "And I tell myself I don’t who I am". The constant Bowie marriage of autobiography and artifice rages on. He mentions his "father" ("I can only love you by hating him more…that’s not the truth, it’s too big a word. He believed that love is theft – love and whores…"). It goes on, "I am a liar. I am a seer." It’s phenomenal.

Every Bowie biography from now on is going to have a lot more cod psychology to do. And even after all these years, all these artistic statements, we don’t know what’s a confession and what’s a character. The interface between the two (substance and style seduce each other, Miller and Monroe in one misfit) affords Bowie more mystery than any other living singer, still.

Officially the album ends there, but there are three short bonus tracks. 'So She' is gentle but romantic, like a jaunty Hunky Dory out-take. 'Plan' (previewed at the start of the video for 'The Stars (Are Out Tonight)') is a stunning instrumental rush, straight outta Berlin, a piledriver chord-drone extended over click-beats, like an elusive found fragment, a blue-blue-electric-blueprint. 'I’ll Take You There' (refrain: "who will I become in the USA?") is another tight, chunky rock nugget. 'Plan' is the one you’ll want to concern yourself with.

David Bowie, then. History, but still happening. And the next day, and the next.

Greatness. It can’t go on. It goes on.

Carpathian
Feb 26, 2013 2:56pm

I almost feel like punching the air and giving out a "YES!" exclamation in that this might just do the comeback justice. All the signs were there and this write-up just furthers the expectation. Man who sold the world? No, not me, but I am the punter who pre-ordered the album.

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angusdurer
Feb 26, 2013 3:50pm

Thank you Mr Roberts.
As ever, a joy to read you.
Bowie has opened up so many worlds since I was 12.
And you have helped articulate how I feel about them.
Roll on March the 11th...

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dot cotton
Feb 26, 2013 4:12pm

Ooo er missus! Excited! It's interesting that the new single The Stars is considered to be the weakest track. This was also the conclusion of the review in the Times. I like The Stars track and the video is fab and slyly funny and knowing (Tilda Stardust!) but I think I'm gonna love the album from what I've read about.

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Feb 26, 2013 4:36pm

If this is not amazing, I will eat my bippety-bopprty hat

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Feb 26, 2013 5:23pm

Ridiculous fan boy's review, banal-isn't-even-the-word album and "artist." You Limeys REALLY need to get over this schmuck; there's PLENTY of Mick Ronson albums to enjoy without Bowie's whinging in the way... Amazing that the same island could produce Ivor Cutler, Viv Stanshall and Bowie and its the last named ya'll spend your time venerating. PISH!!

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Rooksby
Feb 26, 2013 8:03pm

In reply to :

↑ Who posted that last comment, The Laughing Gnome?

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slimey
Feb 26, 2013 8:19pm

This review really makes me excited, but some tracks descriptions (You Feel So Lonely...in particular)are too good to be true. Still, if it's halfway between his 70s work and Heathen/Reality it should be very good, and a very good Bowie album is better than most artists great albums.

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Mike
Feb 26, 2013 10:34pm

Awesome review. Bowie is a rock icon and God and the anticipation is very high

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Rob C
Feb 27, 2013 5:33am

Thank you for the wonderful review...I cannot wait to finally listen.

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Chris
Feb 27, 2013 9:44am

The bloke still can't sing - horrible.

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Deeper
Feb 27, 2013 9:52am

oh put a sock in it, both singles so far are way dull,.
no amount of over excited fan boy writers wishing for
a second coming is going to change that. DB has given us all enough
to just put his feet up and retire..

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Harry
Feb 27, 2013 11:38am

Majestic review in a quality I seldom have read. In my ears I almost hear the songs already and it makes me more impatient to hear the album every sentence I read. If The Stars (are out tonight) is seen as one of the weaker songs on the album, then we're facing a superb new album.
Can't wait for it! By the way: I don't agree to some writers saying Heathen and Reality were not that good. To my opinion they belong to Bowie's better albums. Artistical weakness I only heard in the later eighties albums, with the worst product being Never Let Me Down (I understand that title!). And to my opinion: there is no real "best" album of Bowie. There's better and best albums for every of Bowie's style periods. From the beginning upto now.... I think I'm ready for THE NEXT DAY!

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sarah melillo
Feb 27, 2013 4:26pm

CAN"T WAIT to do my naked dance in March!!!

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Metal Mickey
Feb 27, 2013 4:39pm

In rock & roll's 6th decade, the book is still being written on how to grow old as a rock star; maybe "staying out of the fray for 10 years then coming back with a great record" is the best tactic, this is collectively certainly the most no-holds-barred excitement I've seen for a new release from a "heritage" artist in a long time, maybe ever... will be interesting to see if it actually sells anything after all this.

PS Totally agree that Heathen & Reality shouldn't be given such short shrift - there's actually a decent "Best Of" that can be compiled from his post-Tin Machine work, especially those final two albums...

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emberglance
Feb 27, 2013 5:46pm

As I see this album cover more, I'm beginning also to see what a great cover it is. Almost entirely conceptual with almost no element of craft. It feels like it brings the Bowie thing full circle, back into itself, rather than just being another bit of artwork and the end of a long line of different bits of artwork. The end.

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Rooksby
Feb 28, 2013 11:15am

In reply to emberglance:

Yes, reading between the lines, the phrase "the next day" suggests finality, doesn't it? I suspect the title applies to Bowie's life after the release of this new (final) LP, & it's bringing to a close his career in music. "The next day" = the rest of his life, perhaps?

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PAC
Feb 28, 2013 1:48pm

In reply to Rooksby:

So good having you back on the typewriter Chris.

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John Pownall
Feb 28, 2013 3:21pm

This restores my faith in a second coming. I heard "The Stars" yesterday for the first time and really did not like it. More plodding "Reality" fodder, it seemed to me. But if it's the weakest track? Then, good, I shall await the album with renewed excitement. Which makes me ask...why bother putting it out as a single? I love the title to the track "You feel so lonely you could die"; at last, some post-modern intertextuality from a rock artist!

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dot cotton
Feb 28, 2013 5:57pm

The more I listen to Stars the more I love it. It's an excellent straight forward pop/rock tune and there's nothing wrong with that. I also like that just as in the WAWN video Bowie is happy to be seen as the older guy that he is in the the mini film for Stars.

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zincink
Mar 1, 2013 1:13am

I didn't read any other critiques and chose this one to indulge upon... I can't wait to hear the new album and I am waiting to buy it instead of downloading just to feel the old hype of having the album in your hands while staring at the artwork. Very excited to hear some mooing cows lol!

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Lee
Mar 1, 2013 12:44pm

I guess every aging artist has to disappear for 10 years in order for critics to properly "hear" their new music. It's really unfair the way the incestuous crowd of Brit critics have bonded together to fawn over Bowie's new record. I'm sure it's a good album. But I'm also sure that they NEVER give other late-career artists the same benefit of the doubt and generosity that they've hand delivered to Bowie.

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Mar 1, 2013 4:13pm

In reply to Lee:

How misinformed.

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JB
Mar 1, 2013 8:45pm

Beautiful. Thank you Bowie.

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dot cotton
Mar 2, 2013 9:12am

Mr Roberts is right! It's fucking brilliant! Can't stop listening, he's nailed it!

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vxvx
Mar 3, 2013 3:38pm

Re: "If You Can See Me", nobody hears Eno's "Third Uncle" in the guitar, the dubstep-like drum pattern, and the chaotic pace? The beginning is U2 (soaring vocals and monumental music).

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Alex
Mar 4, 2013 3:05am

Checked out the free stream on iTunes. Loved this album. http://smarturl.it/DBowieAlbumStream

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Renato
Mar 6, 2013 8:09am

Is it just me, or is his voice sounding so very... old? He sounds like a grandfather. This suits the ballads and the last track well, but on the rest of the album, it made me feel sad. The album is really great, loved it, but I think his voice would be better served by ballads, not stompers.

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martian martian
Mar 6, 2013 12:13pm

In reply to Renato:

oh come on,all this hype is really nauseating,i am a Bowie fan as much as anyone,but this is not really that strong song wise,it sounds dreary-if this was released by Tin Machine it would get two stars.His most stylistically contrived lp since Black Tie White Noise,and Visconti's everything but the kitchen sink production is annoying too.Love the single though!

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Tony Madejczyk
Mar 11, 2013 8:28pm

I don't know what I like more? David Bowie's The Next Day or this review of David Bowie's The Next Day? I appreciate the reviewer's honesty and willingness to drop "irony" and just-go-ahead-and-communicate. Kind of like the new Bowie album, I guess?

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jeffort23
Mar 12, 2013 12:09am

David Bowie's meditation on mortality may not be a masterpiece, but it's better than we had any right to expect.

http://ludditestereo.com/2013/03/10/the-next-day-david-bowie-album-review/

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Michael Way
Mar 12, 2013 11:46am

1Thanks very much for saying so much that I have been trying to say to myself and others about this incredible album. Playing it end to end since it's release last Friday here in Ireland ~:0)))

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Kevin Larkin Angioli
Mar 13, 2013 9:53pm

This has turned out to be the worst David Bowie album, bar none. Never Let Me Down and Tonight are better. The only album that may be worse is his very first Deram album, the self-titled before Man of Words/Man of Music (Space Oddity).

I love your enthusiasm and enjoyed your review very much when it first went up, but it gave me undue hope. Your wild exclamations about "You get so lonely..." especially. That might be the worst song Bowie has ever made. Just unbelievably bad and over-the-top and bloated. Compare that song with the artistry, restraint, and contained release of the gem off Heathen, "5.15 The Angels Have Gone," for example.And then to make matters worse with the "Five Years" reference. "Heat" just begins to make up for it, but then, like every other song on the album, goes nowhere, just fades out. Not bad enough that it apes "The Electrician" by The Walker Brothers and is so similar to his own "I Can't Read" from the nineties, but it has no dynamic, no narrative, no climax... just four static minutes.

I don't have enough words for how much I love David Bowie and what a profound impact he has had over and over and over again on me. This is why I am especially pained about what a disappointment this album is and I am angry every time I read a reviewer say that it is better than Heathen and Reality, which it is not, by far.

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Mar 15, 2013 12:05pm

Could not agree more with this review-it is a great album and reminds me more of Lodger than anything else

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Mar 17, 2013 12:05pm

In reply to Kevin Larkin Angioli:

the "Five Years" reference is Bowie's, not mine. the musical reference to it is fact, not opinion.

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slicemaster
Mar 21, 2013 2:46am

I'm still trying to decide whether I like this album or not, but I think it's growing on me. The one thing that annoys me the most, though, is how much time mr. Bowie spends singing entire musical phrases with only one single note. This is particularly true in How Does The Grass Grow, but it occurs through the whole album. Perhaps a consequence of his age and the inevitable loss of range and flexibility.

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the olde contrarian
Mar 26, 2013 9:07am

In reply to slicemaster:

After enormous amounts of discursive fog I have read on this album I received an email from a British friend this morning that pointed me (one from abroad and even without English for his native language) the real quality of this record: it is a genuinely unexpected sign of life of one of the most venerated British musicians. This does make a lot of people very happy indeed. I can accept that. But please then do not switch on the hermeneutic machine in order to prove that it is a great piece of art (a rather secular concept) when most of it concerns a question of faith (that some people assume this is condescending is honestly not part of my problem).
When it comes to listening to this record I can with all my heart state that little of it is interesting (Heat is good but far too short) and a lot bloated tripe bordering on the self-caricature: The choir in You Feel So Lonely You Could Die is a genuine reason to jump off the roof when the voices implore you not to. So I will not continue to give my reasons for being immune to its seductive qualities. I know that music can be very seductive, one of the reasons why I like music so much.
But then my judgment is not lack of insight, but lack of faith. And if people who like "The Next Step" can accept that, all is fine with me. Without any irony I can wish you a lot of happiness with this record.

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Eddy
Apr 11, 2013 10:39am

I think we are always waiting on the next day to be heroes for one day. Bowie is a true hero, never going with the mainstream, or waiting to know that the great mass is sick of this karaoke-strategy (but Bowie had still great re-issues over the years!), and comes with this new album at the perfect right moment. Flashbacking in his own unique way, so it's all NEW. When I listen the album it also reminds me of Bang bang, She'll drive the big, Heathen and Five years on the album. (and the above listed songs). Really great review.

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Andrew Seear
May 4, 2013 1:48am

There's an undercurrent of mistrust swirling around beneath a lot of the critical (and uncritical) response to The Next Day. How can anyone have the temerity to be an active rock musician past the age of sixty? Isn't there something indecent about precision loudness when the perp's old enough to be drawing his state pension? Apparently this is no country for old men.

A few years ago the same mistrust informed - or misinformed - the response to rock produced by anyone over fifty. And a few years before that, rock musicians became objects of suspicion, if not derision, when they survived their fortieth birthdays and went on playing. The clear implication was that If they were any good, why weren't they dead?

Before that, nobody over the age of thirty was to be trusted, and people with any integrity hoped they'd die before they got old. Bowie and Dylan are of that generation, and so far the two best albums of 2013 by some distance are Tempest and The Next Day - the embarrassing thing is not that these sexegenarians should have given up years ago, but that the distance is so vast. Genius doesn't just survive, and it certainly doesn't go into retirement. I'm glad I didn't die before they grew old.

Chris Roberts is right: we're not in the seventies, and this isn't Diamond Dogs. But The Next Day has an urgency to it, a sense of necessity, that we haven't heard from Bowie since Scary Monsters. Like WB Yeats, the aging Bowie has discovered fantastic, beautiful and terrifying possibilities for art in his own declining powers.

Golden years.

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