The great David Bowie managed something most music artists can’t achieve in their 4th and 5th decades – to stay relevant and ambitious both in the studio and on stage.
Releasing acclaimed albums in the late 90’s and early aughts, as well as selling out worldwide with a hot stage show, led many to believe Bowie was entering a second creative goldrush. But as he entered his 60’s, health problems slowed him down and he fell into an admitted writers block. 2003’s Reality album and tour was not followed and no one much heard of Bowie for a few years. He’d pop up from time to time as an artsy citizen of NYC but didn’t appear to be pursuing his music career further.
Which all makes his new album “The Next Day” that much cooler. Written, recorded, mixed, and released with no pre-release hype, no press teasers, and no leaks in this day of social media and instant gratification makes it a serious throwback to times when a new release could build natural buzz based on the artist’s quality.
The cover art kicks thing off proper with a Fluxus-inspired statement, using the cover of “Heroes” as the backdrop for a large white box over Bowie’s 1970’s mug. Inside the overly large white box is the title “The Next Day” in the plainest, least passionate black font they could find. The hook is the original title bar, modified to “Heroes” David Bowie.
Yes David appears to be feeling a bit nostalgic, doing what he rarely does and looking back and some key points in his life. The music is full of variety, grooves, riffs, hooks, builds, cliffs, even soaring ballads featuring mostly traditional instruments – real drums, real guitars, real horns, real keys played by Bowie, and great lead and backing vocals. The whole things is 17 songs of very musical and well-written work. It’s amazing he put this together (and out) with none of the marketing he usually receives.
Here’s a track to whet your appetite:
Bowie said in a recent interview that he didn’t feel his label would support the record and that he didn’t plan on touring extensively with this record, so he decided to do the whole thing as a covert project. Everyone involved had to use a cover story and keep the info that they were working on the a new Bowie record quiet. Amazing that it worked, and it’s exciting to just have a new record without waiting for it after months of hype. This record was released on Bowie’s 66th birthday with no press. Awesome.
Anyway, I bought this record in hi-def digital over at HDTracks and would buy the double-record vinyl set if I saw it. Bowie is a once-in-a-lifetime sort of artist and this record belongs in the catalog next to his other greats.