David Bowie – The Next Day Review

Inevitably overshadowed by the death knell of Blackstar, David Bowie’s discography that preceded his final piece and followed Let’s Dance is a misty place. They aren’t all that talked of, never the favourite on any list. That is understandable, nobody is clamouring all too much for another Heathen, but the long lapses in new material and the breaks between do showcase new eras of Bowie’s work. The Next Day offers up his steadiest and most interesting record since Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), and far exceeds the farewell tone of his Blackstar release. That is more through the quality, variety and feeling around his return than anything else, although the spirited, soulful tracks help too.

It is arguably more consistent and exciting than Blackstar. The real key to The Next Day are tracks like Love is Lost and the title track. Great riffs and strong lyrics underlined by a relatively new sound and a different perspective from Bowie. His voice has lowered, shaken by the decades from his first years with Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. To contrast the two is easy. To only look at the tone and style of each album is to compare two hugely different eras of the man behind the lyrics. The Next Day feels much, much slower than the best tracks of the previous century, but the 14-track, self-examining piece makes references or alludes to those moments and events that shaped various periods of his career.

A pastiche like no other, Bowie is given the chance to reflect on the various eras of his career, track by track. The Stars (Are Out Tonight) feels like a clamour back for the Thin White Duke era and this slight desire to return to it. Bowie’s inability to rid himself of previous personalities and an acceptance of this new era feels personal and introspective. Whether it is or not is beside the point, the track, like many others on this album, is slightly above the quality of this 90s output. So Lonely You Could Die is arguably one of Bowie’s best tracks from any period. A hidden gem on an album now forgotten because of the album so closely associated with his death just a few years later. The Next Day makes for a much stronger farewell because it gives a resolute goodbye rather than a knowing one. It is equally as, if not more touching, than Blackstar, and better musically too.

That would seem contrarian to the mainstream opinion, but tracks like Where Are We Now? and the previously mentioned So Lonely You Could Die tower over the rather forgettable midsection that Blackstar provides. When the Bowie roundups appear, it’ll be more likely that Lazarus is played than If You Can See Me, and that is a tremendous shame. Bowie is at times rather on the nose throughout The Next Day, but it adds to the reflection and the desire to get himself closer to his own music and drag the listener along for the ride. That sombre melancholy would stick with Bowie until his very last album, but never forget where it started. Where it sounded better, where it was rounded out with greater instinct and where the variety of his grief and effective displays of it showed on the album that preceded his final piece.

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