33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2013
After reading s.t.'s review, I am not sure I can add in any way to what was written. His review was remarkably thorough.
That said, I originally debated between 4 and 5 stars for this album. My dilemma was simple: "Do I compare this album with David Bowie's past classics?" No, I think that would be a little unfair. Music has changed and so has Bowie. Rather, I believe it is best to compare the album with the music that is current or at least music from the last ten years. Comparing this to "current" rock albums, the genre it mostly aligns, this is a five star album.
Granted it is not an album for everyone. Still no album is. I give little credence to those who criticize this album for not being like today's "pop". Bowie's music is not "pop" nor is trying to be. Those in tuned to music mainstream will likely be disappointed.
Musically its style is often discordant with heavy guitar riffs, orchestral swills, and drum and bass beats. At times it takes an 180 degree turn and goes into an acoustic strip down. This can be disheartening to those unfamiliar with Bowie who may not understand these transitions.
It is an emotional album, but not the same sense as one might consider. It emotions are those that reside deeper into the spirit of the human condition. These are the dark emotions we often try to keep hidden and certainly do not sing about. The album is not about love, romance, happiness or subjects that dominate today's radio mainstay. Isolation, alienation, war, misunderstanding, and revenge are themes on this album. Mixed with cryptic lyrics with uses of references to history, philosophy and culture one has to think when listening. Not always a pleasant experience when I am looking just for relaxation. However, I know there are other Bowie albums fit that bill better.
Would I recommend this album? If you like Bowie, classic rock, complex and layered compositions, and intellectually challenging lyrics, then yes, this album will sit well. If you want music that is catchy, easy to sing and filled with mainstream familiarity and happiness, then no.
70 of 82 people found the following review helpful
This is a very good David Bowie album, in my view. It's a great relief to say it, because when some of the gods of my youth have returned in...well...late middle age after a long absence the results have not always been very good, to say the least. Here, Bowie shows that he is still a major songwriting and performing talent and that he still has a genuine edge.
We have had a little time now to digest the track Where Are We Now? and to assess its true merit now that the "Blimey!" factor following its surprise release has worn off a bit. I still think that it's a very good song indeed. I did worry that some of the fragile, almost-out-of-tune vocal wasn't a deliberate effect but the voice of a man who can't quite sing as he used to, but - thank heavens - I was quite wrong. It is followed on the album by Valentine's Day, a track which wouldn't have been out of place on Aladdin Sane and which Bowie sings superbly, and there's plenty of other evidence here that he's still got it.
The songs seem to me to be vintage Bowie. There is the full gamut from singable, rocky tunes like Valentine's Day, through lovely tender songs like Where Are We Now? to the almost tuneless and weird-rhythmed If You Can See Me, with plenty in between. He certainly hasn't settled into a comfortable rut in middle age - If You Can See Me has joined my list of Almost Unlistenable Bowie Tracks and I'm delighted to see that he is still prepared to challenge and unsettle his audience even if personally I don't like the result.
The lyrics, of course, are complex, allusive and often elusive. As always, you can try to analyse what they "really" mean, but I've never found that a very productive way of approaching Bowie because I suspect that, as many poets have, he often puts together words for their sound or effect without them having any "true meaning." I love his lyrics and I often just enjoy the evocative sound of phrases like this in Dirty Boys: "When the sun goes down/And the die is cast..." and let my imagination do the rest. Similarly, in The Stars, we get things like, "There they are upon the stairs/Sexless and unaroused..." which makes little literal sense in the context but it's an amazingly arresting lyric which sparks off all sorts of mental images and thoughts - which is what good lyrics should do.
I really like this album. The production is excellent; it is varied and sensitive and shows every song off at its best. It will take a while before it is clear whether or not it is a true Bowie classic. My sense is that it's probably not quite a classic, but it's a very good album indeed and warmly recommended.
177 of 213 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2013
Finally, at long last, Bowie fans can say this sentence and actually mean it: "This is his best work since Scary Monsters." I'm talking of course about The Next Day, David's first album in ten years.
Of course, some fans will balk at such a statement. What about Outside (1995)? Or Heathen (2002)? It's true that those are notable later period Bowie releases. Outside is a criminally underappreciated work, just overflowing with moments of madcap brilliance, and Heathen is a smart consolidation of many of David's strengths as a pop songwriter. But even acknowledging that Outside is willfully difficult, it needs trimming. Its length and jumbled nature ensured that only the most die-hard of fans would come to recognize its merits. And Heathen is a nice showcase of his music at its most pretty and good-humored, but it lacks the passion and drama of Bowie at his most inspired. Not to mention the cynicism that colors his best work, from Space Oddity to Scary Monsters, has been in short supply ever since Outside was dismissed as a desperate attempt to stay relevant.
So now, after decades of mixed reviews and misguided reinvention, we have a DB album that, like Outside, channels the cracked genius of his classic albums--especially Heroes, Lodger, and Scary Monsters--yet also boasts a restraint in concept and production that serves to invite listeners instead of scaring them away. It's an art rock album that can be appreciated as such. Hence, the first Bowie album since Scary Monsters that most fans will agree is excellent.
How excellent? Well, The Next Day doesn't have the standout hits of Scary Monsters' (or its unhinged vocal acrobatics), but I think it equals or perhaps even betters an album like Lodger. Of course, its place in the canon may shift with subsequent listens, but from the start it's pretty impressive.
Still, it's not for everyone. The album's cover art, a sacrilegious defacing of the classic "Heroes" cover, provides a clue that Bowie's been feeling a bit spiky these past years, and fans who prefer the friendly, tuneful Bowie may be disappointed or confused by this one. Listen to the samples to see what you're getting into!
All in all, The Next Day is a marvelous addition to the Bowie canon, a true Return to Form. It's not perfect, but there's so much good stuff here, and it's such a thrill to hear Bowie having some nasty fun again. Perhaps if you want a more complete experience of Neo-Classicist Bowie, Heathen and The Next Day are both necessary. One for the good-humored and pretty, the other for the dark and adventurous. Combined, the two albums are wonderful distillations of what makes the man so great.
But this will be the one that people talk about.
Here's a song-by-song breakdown:
The Next Day: The album kicks off with a taut, sneering rocker. Like "Beauty & the Beast" meets "New Killer Star," but with a fantastically acrid vocal turn by Bowie, sometimes similar to his maniacal verses in "The Supermen." Supposedly about a dying dictator, this is our long sleeping Giant reclaiming his throne in a brilliantly haughty fashion.
Dirty Boys: Like strip music for William Burroughs' mugwumps, this is sleazy, tense, off-kilter funk. Not far from what he made on Iggy Pop's The Idiot or Lodger, but this has a gleefully nasty attitude that stands apart from those works. Perhaps my favorite track of the album.
The Stars (Are Out Tonight): As a single, this seemed a tad stiff, but it works surprisingly well in the flow of the album. Although it's an accessible rocker complete with a hummable melody and tasteful string arrangement, "Stars" continues Bowie's defiantly bitter exegesis of contemporary life, here focusing on celebrity culture (of which he is not quite a part anymore...something he appreciates and loathes in equal measure). It's fairly basic in structure, but the song is energetic and fun, and nicely carries the momentum.
Love is Lost: Extremely tense minimalist rocker, somewhat akin to Wire, or maybe Gang of Four. Upbeat yet hypnotic, this is another highlight. Love the slashes of guitar throughout.
Where Are We Now?: For those of you who were underwhelmed when this was released as a single, you are not alone. I was scared about the prospect of TND after hearing "Where Are We Now," but I can assure you that Bowie's cracked, defeated voice here is simply one of many voices on the album. Importantly, the song provides some much needed space after the claustrophobic opening tracks. It's the lone moment of plaintive, graceful beauty here, and as such it's a welcome presence.
Valentine's Day: A breezy pop nugget, like the guitar-rock brother of "Everyone Says Hi," and not too far from his songs in the mid-60's. It has a silly chorus that's quite fun to chant. Were it not for the lyrics about a man's murderous rampage, "Valentine's Day" would feel out of place on this album. As it stands, this mischievous little ditty fits right in.
If You Can See Me: Anxiety ascending. This is Bowie at his absolute proggiest. Like a sequel to "Look Back in Anger," as performed by Henry Cow or Magma. Very strange indeed. Fans of the Walker Brothers' Nite Flights LP (and Scott Walker's later solo work) will love this, while people who prefer the pre-Berlin Bowie will probably skip it.
I'd Rather Be High: Swirling psychedelic rock, appropriate for lyrics describing a soldier's desire for escape from his experiences at war. When I first heard that this album would be filled with rock songs, this is the kind of stuff I imagined: basic midtempo tracks that were modest progressions from what he had been doing on his last album, Reality. Compared to the rest of the songs on The Next Day, this is a bit dull. Still, it's nice, and doesn't disrupt the flow of the album.
Boss of Me: Brassy, groovin' pop rock, closer to Heathen and Reality (and perhaps some songs from '84-`87) than his classic period. So, like "I'd Rather Be High," this is enjoyable, but not as impressive or interesting as rest of the album.
Dancing out in Space: Things start to pick up again here. Spacy washes of guitar meet a stark nervy beat, like a Krautrock cousin to the earlier "If You Can See Me." If "Boys Keep Swinging" were played by Neu!, it might sound something like this.
How Does the Grass Grow: Kind of like a wiry sequel to opening track. This shares a rhythm with the vocal intro to Bowie's cover of "Pablo Picasso," but has a playful menace similar to the upbeat tracks on "Heroes."
You Will Set the World on Fire: Simply put, this is Tin Machine done well. It also sounds like a smart revamping of the sound of Never Let Me Down, an album Bowie has long wanted to re-record. "Fire" is a stadium friendly guitar rock anthem with a Kinks-esque riff and some killer shredding, though the sound is not nearly as lame as that description makes it seem. It is somewhat out of step with TND's artier excursions, but it's still a lot of fun. I'd love to hear how he'd do this live (but alas, he may not perform these songs in concert)...
You Feel So Lonely You Could Die: An anthem dripping with drama, a taste of the old Bowie majesty. Aside from the nods to Ziggy-era songs such as "Rock `n' Roll Suicide" and "Five Years," this almost sounds like something Leonard Cohen would write, cruel doo-wop backing vocals and all. Note though that even here, Bowie is not in a generous mood when it comes to prettiness. As grand as it is, the song is starkly arranged and comes off as quite frantic. All the better to jeer at you and your misery, my dear...
Heat: The album closer is immediately reminiscent of the Walker Brother's "The Electrician" and Scott Walker's "Jesse," but gives way to a more expansive and meditative feel, though still full of intense pathos. These are perhaps his most cryptic lyrics, and the haunting refrain "My father ran the prison" will ring in your ears well after the album has ended. An appropriately jagged end to Bowie's edgiest release in many years.
EDIT FOR DELUXE EDITION: With "The Next Day Extra," you get a bunch of bonus tracks. On the whole, nothing earth-shattering here, but fans will definitely be interested. Here's a breakdown:
Atomica: A fun little new wave rocker, though a little slight. The guitar riff reminds me of My Sharona by The Knack, and "I Feel Much Better" by The Small Faces. Like a few songs on TND, Bowie's vocal delivery is manic and tense, recalling earlier songs like "Beauty and the Beast."
Love is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix): James Murphy aka LCD Soundsystem remixes a track from the original album, and it's pretty good. Retaining the tension of the original, but giving it more of a groove. The splicing in of a classic Bowie melody halfway through the track is a welcome touch.
Plan: A fine instrumental, though it feels like the skeleton of what could have been a more fully fleshed-out song. In fact, maybe it was (see next).
Informer: The drums of the previously released bonus track "Plan" are used here for a more proper rock ballad. I hear snatches of "I Dig Everything" in the verses, and a touch of "Absolute Beginners" in the arrangements. Still, it has that clipped, anxious vocal delivery that's all over TND. While it would fit reasonably well on the album, it wouldn't be an album highlight.
I'd Rather Be High (Venetian Mix): You hear some variant of this remix in the recent Louis Vuitton commercial starring Bowie...so perhaps that's why this exists? Even assuming that, I'm still puzzled as to why he felt compelled to make this thing. It's basically just the original track with harpsichord parts running throughout. It robs the song of its '60s motif, and makes for a distracting listen.
Like a Rocket Man: No, Bowie's not taking on Elton John here, it's a devilishly bouncy number detailing the lives of folks strung out on coke and speed. This sounds like a sequel to previous bonus track "So She (very similar guitar parts) but it's more of an overt pop song than that rather modest charmer. It's actually closer in spirit to Valentine's Day and How Does the Grass Grow, all of them being batty pop ditties with surprisingly sinister undertones. This is the strongest of the newest tracks in my opinion, and would have made TND even stronger.
Born in a UFO: Take the chorus of Born in the USA and graft it onto Bowie's tepid cover of Like a Rolling Stone (on Mick Ronson's album), and you get fairly close to this dud. Could have used a little more time in the oven.
I'll Take You There: This previously released bonus track is a fun rocking anthem, very close in sound and approach to You Will Set the World on Fire. I think I prefer this one though!
God Bless the Girl: Originally only available on the Japanese release, "God Bless the Girl" is an uncanny fusion of "Like a Prayer" and "Magic Dance" that somehow still manages to sound urgent and moving, perfectly in keeping with TND. I wasn't sure about what to think of it at first, but now I think it's one of his best songs of this era.
So She: Previously released extra, pleasant but not much else. Definitely sounds like a B-Side, albeit an enjoyable one.
74 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2013
I can totally understand how some people would not take to this album right off the bat. It is not "Pop". It is clearly not meant to be disposable, like so much of the top 40 stuff. This album is filled with layers. It is like a great painting that shows you something new each time you look at it. Its not like a billboard that you are meant to look at once, totally understand, then wait for it to be changed next week. For me, this album has all of the finesse and charm and grit of Bowie's career. It takes the listener on a journey. It uses lyrics to entice the listener to bring part of his or her life to the moment and then wraps it in the richness of the musical arrangement. Personally, I enjoy the mystery of this album. Sure, I listen to Pop stuff too, but it all fades so fast and becomes forgettable. I feel that this album will linger and be savored by those who are willing to dive in and enjoy it.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
As with a lot of people reading this,I was not expecting David Bowie to make a follow up recording to his previous album Reality,which he released a decade ago. All the evidence in fact pointed to some type of semi retirement but that was not the case. He was apparently working secretly on this album,careful not to get too much of a pre publicity campaign going. How like Bowie to exercise such a meticulous level of control over the presentation and promotion of his art. He's a very difficult artist to follow,so honestly I don't know a whole lot about the production of this album or why it came to be when it did. All I know is that Tony Visconti is involved and that the cover art presents itself as a peculiar cut-n-paste variation on the Heroes artwork-with a simple square white box with the album title covering his face and the original title x'd out. So what has Bowie apparently (or allegedly depending on one's viewpoint) been up to in the creation of his next musical offering? And does it expand it any way from his 70's and 80's music?
Surprisingly it does. This is not Ziggy Stardust or the Thin White Duke. It's very much David Bowie,already in fact a character as his last name is Jones,obviously. He starts out with the title song,a very rhythmic dance/rocker that like the first single from this "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)","Valentines Day" and "Dancing Out In Space","Boss Of Me" and "(You Will) Set The World On Fire" define their strong song craft and melody by those layers of discordant drums,guitars and bass lines Bowie has always managed to combine in his music to create something somehow flowing and coherent. Of course being who Bowie is,there are many many surprises here as well. And those are actually among my favorites here. They include "Where Are We Now?",this expansive mixture of high pitched 80's style keyboard orchestrations with this rather stark Cabaret pop/rock style melody. There's also "If You Can See Me",which has a compelling mixture of Bowie's late 90's flirtation with drum 'n bass with the late 70's industrial dance/rock he pioneered on his Berlin trilogy.
"How Does The Grass Grow" is probably my favorite song here as it expands on that sonically heady fusion of pop/rock with electronica that defined his mid to late 70's musical explosions. "Dirty Boys" and "Love Is Lost" both have what I'd call an industrial blues flavor to them-the former funkier and the latter more stripped down. "I'd Rather Be High","You Feel So Lonely You Could Die" and "Heat" are all intense and often very soulful epics that,in classic Bowie style,resist any real attempt at classification. Of the bonus tracks "So She" and "I'll Take You There" are both wonderfully orchestrated pop numbers whereas "Plan" is a two minute textured guitar instrumental. David Bowie and Tony Visconti are again at their best here creating this often very epic musical structures that are somehow intense and direct at the same time. They are the perfect setting for Bowie's typically rebellious romantic notions that define his lyrical send ups-either character plays or caricatured deconstructionism depending on ones viewpoint. While some might disagree,this is definitely an album worth waiting for. Not only does it have Bowie's ear catching sound musically,but there's a great deal of potential for an innovative type of commercial success as well. And in a more money driven music world,that's very much needed.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2013
1. The Next Day.
Right out of the cage this song snarls and shreds and builds intensity until the breaking point with db's vox assuring us "Here I am not quite dying, my body left to rot in a hollow tree, its branches throwing shadows on the gallows for me" and if you listen closely to the remaining lyrics about paper bodies and pain and diseases and purple-headed priests and the great line "they know God exists for the Devil told them so", it all adds up to one killer track knocked out of the proverbial ballpark for me. Repeat listenings improve this and every last track on the album, I know because I can't stop listening to it.
2. Dirty Boys.
Then we segue into a unique sounding song for Bowie. This is a low down sleazy dirty saxaphone dirge with remarkable guitar tones and angular rhythms. With lyrics about buying feather hats and stealing cricket bats and smashing windows, making noise, and running with dirty boys. . . what's not to like?
3. The Stars (Are Out Tonight).
Another rocker knocked out of the park. 3 in a row? We've barely scratched the surface of the new classic songs, and after listening to this one many times (it's a grower) I've determined this is the 1st 'classic' potential radio single with enough melodic catchiness and professional groovedom to please everybody. When he croons about Brigitte, Jack, Kate and Brad behind their sunglasses "gleaming like blackened sunshine" we are led to understand a brilliant poetic metaphor contrasting the celestial kingdom with Hollywood's and the public's overt glorification of celebrityhood...a topic that no one knows better from personal experience than David Bowie.
4. Love is Lost.
A moody song that I've heard from more than one 20-something year old is their absolute favorite. Personally I can think of better tracks off this record but it pleases me to know that our younger generations adore this tune. I like it a lot myself because it's haunting and has a strange arrangement. Realize now that Bowie's lyrics throughout this album are nothing less than stellar. Beginning with these refrains "It's the darkest hour, you're twenty-two, the voice of youth, the hour of dread, the darkest hour and your voice is new, love is lost, lost is love, your country's new, your friends are new, your house and even your eyes are new, your maid is new and your accent too, but your fear is as old as the world" we are treated with more of the sharpest and incisive lyrics from Bowie's career, and that is saying something.
5. Where Are We Now?
I'll never forget hearing this song for the first time on db's b-day earlier this year, and sitting before my computer screen utterly mezmerized by the equally brilliant video. I had to put up with the typical kneejerk bored reactionism from a host of dullards that this tune was "boring" or "melancholy" etc and YEAH it's melancholy as all getout and I'll tell you right now it equals and sometimes surpasses my favorite tracks off the entire album. It is that good. The way it builds slowly to the epiphany of "As long as there's Sun, As long as there's Sun / As long as there's Rain, As long as there's Rain / As long as there's Fire, As long as there's Fire / As long as there's Me / As long as there's You" brings tears to my eyes everytime I hear it. Truly a phenomenal lead-in track which cleverly manages to defiantly refute the seething masses' apathy, I consider that move of first releasing this "downer" of a tune (which evolves into quite the opposite in fact...much like the paradox of existence) as truly brilliant. A "check-mate" if you will right from the start. Where Are We Now? truly shines as one of David Bowie's greatest songs ever written in my opinion.
6. Valentine's Day.
What can I say? Well there is no doubt David Bowie's got something to say. I will never tire of listening to this song for the remainder of my life...perhaps it has something to do with the fact its release coincides with the arrival of my newborn first son, with his "tiny face" and "scrawny hands" and "icy heart", not to mention we almost named him Valentine, actually...or maybe it's merely the fact this is the best radio pop song David Bowie has recorded since. . . .I just don't know when. Easily since 1980's Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) famous and everlasting track "Ashes To Ashes". I'm going to go ahead and dig into this song here for posterity, defending Bowie's lyrical intent and meaning behind it. With the subtle yet striking opening lines "Valentine told me who's to go / Feelings he's treasured most of all / The teachers and the football star" he sets up what in my rich experience of listening to rock music for the past 35 years is the most devastating critique of American culture I've had the pleasure listening to. This song is my #1 choice for the next single and definitely my favorite in terms of sheer pop catchiness and melody. From the opening drum taps to the introductory guitar riff and on through to the glorious end, the song Valentine's Day may be the most profoundly stated song in the history of modern rock'n'roll to me. It is a very brave statement in defense of generations of kids bullied by our increasingly out of touch society's penchant towards encouraging the cultivation of "rape culture" and overt machismo. Never in my life have I been so moved by the intent behind the meaning of a song. Not only is it the catchiest pop song on the album, but that fact (along with the "Yeah, yeah's" of the backing chorus championing our titular hero) perfectly contrasts the dark underpinnings of the theme. Add this song to the growing list of "mass shooting" songs (Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" and Korn's "Thoughtless" immediately come to mind) and you have the unparalleled Leader of the Pack in my opinion. As far as I'm concerned David Bowie has remarkably achieved "The Final Word" on this theme with Valentine's Day.
7. If You Can See Me.
And now we come to another well-played segue into a brooding, dark song filled with postmodern tension. Returning to his "Big Brother" roots with the eerie refrain "If you can see me / I can see you", this track is yet another masterful studio recording featuring great lyrics such as "I will take your lands and all that lays beneath, the dust of cold flowers, prison of dark ashes, I will slaughter your kind who descend from belief, I am the spirit of greed, a lord of theft, I'll burn all your books and the problems they make" . . .really a frightening tune if you can manage to get your head inside it even as it gets its head inside you. By this point of the album we are honestly scoring 7 out of 7 and what makes it even better is the diversity of styles and sounds making each track unique yet flowing into each other in a manner that only one who's mastered the art of conceptual rock albums could achieve.
8. I'd Rather Be High.
By this point in the album, the "critical cynic" in me is just dying to throw you readers out there a condemnation or two, just to appease your bitter little hearts. Unfortunately for the legion of mindless haters out there (yet joyously fortunate for the rest of us) I cannot offer a single droplet of disdain about this, the eighth track off The Next Day. I'd Rather Be High is as glorious an anti-war statement as I have ever heard, simply jam-packed with beautiful elements. We are looking at yet another catchy single easily as great as any other from this album, in fact whenever I listen to it I become so enraptured that I am immediately swept up in it to the point I believe with all my heart it is the best song, period. From the gorgeously endless wavy rhythm of the guitars to the incredible biting and beautiful lyrics, how could anyone with ears and a brain deny the power and majesty here? "I'd rather be high (I'd rather be high), I'd rather be flyyyyyying (I'd rather be flying), I'd rather be dead (or out of my head) than training these guns on those men in the sand, I'd rather be high..." amount to the sentiment I sympathize the most with from the entire album. And just when you think this tune has shot its load, you ain't heard nothing yet until you hear the sixty-six year old David Bowie croon with as much tricky passion as he's mustered in generations "I'm seventeen and my looks can prove it, I'm so afraid that I will lose it, I'd rather smoke and phone my ex be pleading for some teenage sex, yeah." See what he did there? Yet another example of his mastery of fiction into song. By shades and degrees Bowie reveals himself as a genuine "author" of fictional scenarios and invented protagonists via the medium of music. If this song is not a triumph then I don't know what is. Tied with Valentine's Day as the perfect single for this day and age. To think the Thin White Duke yet speaks for today's teen generation during his ripening years is proof in the pudding for me that he is not fading gradually away, far from it. The decade he spent laying low has proven to be the wisest move the 70s superstar could possibly have made. By this point in the album, if you are not entirely convinced that David Bowie is at the peak of his powers as a genuine artist, then all I can think of to say is...you're not paying attention. The underscoring theme of The Next Day is the ironic contrast between the lingering perception that his glory days (as Ziggy Stardust, etc.) are in the past, and the inescapable fact that nothing could be further from the truth.
9. Boss Of Me.
Although it took me longer to appreciate this song fully, I do recall that the opening refrains grabbed me right away; "Tell me when you're sad, I wanna make it cool again, I know you're feeling bad, tell me when you're cool again." That little snippet caught my interest from the get-go, but it took longer to groove to what I now consider an awesome chorus "Who'd have ever thought of it, who'd have ever dreamed, that a small town girl like you would be the boss of me." Bowie's sardonic lyrics never fail to amaze me, and of course it's the manner in which he sings them that lends them their particular twisted meaning. It may have taken a dozen listens to finally click, and now I can't get enough of this song. At this point the album is still clocking in at 100% . . . and I am amazed.
10. Dancing Out In Space.
Now we come to a real curve ball. I'll admit to hating this song the first few times I listened to it. And I'll even admit that the first dozen or so times I listened to the album, there were a couple or three tracks which reminded me of outtakes from his notoriously panned '87 (and cry) album Never Let Me Down. And to be honest...it let me down, bigtime. But check this out. Eventually the bassline to this song became so infectious, I could not deny its inherent danceability...on repeat listenings, I became impressed by the thought that late night clubs across metropolitan cities on Earth would be playing this new Bowie song to packed houses of dancing partygoers, and my indifference to it has now morphed into real appreciation. It's the snappiest song off the record for cryin' out loud! I'm just not into "snappy" songs since I stopped going to clubs years ago. But I'll say this much. Listening to Dancing Out In Space brings the old urge back and makes me dream of the good old days when we went clubbing and all the world was our oyster. If this song doesn't snap you out of your trance I guess you're better off dead.
11. How Does The Grass Grow?
Blood blood blood...that's how. Now we return to the more serious and brooding side of the album, after having been given some super nice breaks during the last three songs. Featuring one of the most chilling lines in recent memory, "Would you still love me if the clocks could go backwards? The girls would fill with blood and the grass would be green again. Remember the dead, they were so great (some of them). Ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya...Nya ya ya ya ya ya ya. Where do the boys lie? Mud, mud mud." Here we are eleven cuts deep into Bowie's twenty-fourth studio album and we are gifted with yet another stunner. By this point all I can do is shake my head with wonder. If I could talk to David I'd say that I missed him more than he'd ever know, "waiting with my red eyes and my stone heart". Well I can personally vouch that the ten year wait has been more than worthwhile.
12. You Will Set The World On Fire.
At long last, here it is. The single track off The Next Day that I honestly don't care for too much. Sure, its got an easy throwaway catchiness to it, but that's exactly why it quickly wears itself thin. This song comes as closest to sounding like an alternate take from Never Let Me Down. It is perhaps the song which best exemplifies what the cynical side of us most likely expected from Bowie at this late stage of his career.
13. You Feel So Lonely You Could Die.
If I had one question I could ask David about the meaning behind any one of the songs off The Next Day, it would undoubtedly be "Can you tell us if the the song You Feel So Lonely You Could Die is based on a real person, and if so, who it is please?" Here is the most grandiose ballad off the album, and it's a bittersweet symphony indeed. With powerful accusations such as "HIdden from your friends, stealing all they knew, lovers thrown in airless rooms, then vile rewards for you" and "But I'm gonna tell, yes I've gotta tell, gotta tell the things you've said when you're talking in the dark and I'm gonna tell the things you've done when you're walking through the park" and "there'll come the assassin's needle on a crowded train, I'll bet you feel so lonely you could die" are powerful indictments indeed, but they merely pave the way for the climactic fury of "I can see you as a corpse hanging from a beam, I can read you like a book" all building towards the ultimately satisfying lyrical annihilation of whomever the subject of this inspired ballad is, "Oblivion shall own you, death alone shall love you, I hope you feel so lonely you could die." Just...wow. This penultimate track surges back 110% and I can't help but think that Bowie intentionally put the one "throwaway" track directly before it for added psychological effect. If not, it sure ends up working that way for me.
The album closes with this slow burner which also took me several listens to fully appreciate. In the end, that's what I love about this album. Bowie has offered us a challenging listen with a sprinkling of poppy, easy-listening scattered here and there, creating a dynamic and fully realized rock album, the likes of which I haven't heard from him (much less from a lot of bands today) in many years. When he concludes the album with lines such as "My father ran the prison / 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 / the theft of love / And I tell myself I don't know who I am / My father ran the prison / my father ran the prison / But I am a seer / I am a liar / I am a seer / I am a liar" etc, us old school fans are reminded and the new ones are tipped in that he is playing the role of author, here. He has created a brilliant fiction in writing The Next Day. And for me it has been the most engrossing and satisfying rock album of 2013.
In conclusion, 93% of this album (that's 13 out of 14 tracks kids) is "the proof in the pudding" so to speak that Bowie remains in Tip-Top form at the age of sixty-six in the year 2013. How cool is that? To think that the proverbial "Next Day" (today) is even better than the glorified Olden Days of Yore is as welcome a message as we could honestly expect. It took me listening to this album for at least a month before it all gelled together for me. You may hate it, love it, leave it or remain indifferent...I don't care. As a long time appreciator of Bowie the mercurial songwriter, crooner, and uncrowned king of the alternative scene, I could not possibly be more pleased than I am with The Next Day. As solid an album as I could have dreamed. So let there be Another Day...and the next...and the next. I am confident he can continue to deliver good music for another several years to come. Yet I also expect he will retire with grace before he indeed may begin to "fade away"... And on that note, I also expect it's entirely possible this may be the Last Album. I only say that because he could not possibly make a grander exit nor have produced a better Swan Song. Still. Bowie is obviously genetically programmed for boundless energy and creativity. So if he asked me...I say don't stop now, David. Well I'm getting older myself so I won't even mind if he starts gradually fading away from this pinnacle in his extraordinary career. Generations of people have felt this way since I was in my teens, so I'm going to say it now...we love you David.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2013
The Short Story:
If you are new to David Bowie's work, this isn't a bad album to start with, but I might begin with some of his work from the 1970's. If you are an established Bowie fan, this album is a must-listen. It's some of Bowie's best material in decades.
The Longer Story:
At the end of Paul Trynka's Bowie biography "Starman," he leaves with a speculative note. David Bowie never said he retired, but after his A Reality Tour, he disappeared from the music scene almost completely. This was unusual for the singer/songwriter - he would rarely go a few years without releasing an album in his decades-long career. It seemed like Bowie had genuinely retired, and Trynka's biography leaves some hope that one day, Ziggy Stardust himself will awake from his slumber and release an album that would blow everyone away.
Then in early 2013, the world received word: David Bowie was not only working on another album after almost a decade of silence, but the album was already finished and coming out in a couple of months. The album announcement was accompanied with a video for "Where Are We Now?" The song is a slow, introspective ballad that creeps along, and it presents a problem: this is not a song for young, up-and-coming Bowie fans, and it doesn't give listeners a good idea of what the album is. This is a song that reflects on Bowie's life, and this is significant in the eyes of a fan because as a songwriter, Bowie rarely lets his guard down. Even personal songs like "Changes" are wrapped in heavy melodies and pop production. "Where Are We Now?" hints at an album that finds Bowie in his later years, reflecting back on his career. At this point, I was expecting THE NEXT DAY to be an album full of songs like "Thursday's Child" - good, mellow, wise, but missing the spark that his earlier material had.
Fortunately, "Where Are We Now?" gives absolutely no indication as to what THE NEXT DAY sounds like. With its opening track (the title track), the album roars to life with energetic guitar riff not unlike something from Bowie's Berlin triptych. Most of the music here is mid to up tempo, and a lot of it reminds of stuff that would have been recorded around 1975-1980. "If You Can See Me," "Dancing Out in Space," and "Dirty Boys" sound like they could have come from the same period as well. "How Does the Grass Grow?" has a choppy rhythm that feels pulled out of the 1980's oeuvre. There are a handful of songs that sound strange, but only in the sense that they sound unfamiliar. "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)" and "Valentine's Day" don't have the quirk or glam that has defined most of Bowie's songwriting, but they are great traditional rock songs with strong melodies. All of this is played with a renewed sense of interest: Bowie didn't make this record because he was fulfilling a contract, and he's not going through the motions. He doesn't sound bored here - he sounds more excited than he has in a long, long time.
The album finds Bowie pushing himself forward into new territory but with an eye on the past. Many of these songs do sound new and fresh, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of these were actually written in Bowie's days in Berlin. The album art encapsulates this: it's the cover of HEROES, but with a giant white square obscuring his face. Even though Bowie might have (in his work in the 2000's) tried to avoid reaching into his past, he's realized he can't. Instead of running from his past, and instead of embracing it, he does something different. He accepts the past and tries to one-up himself. There's an acceptance from Bowie that we've seen from him in more of the recent albums, but nothing this clear eyed.
The album feels like it's the most personal Bowie has ever released. "The Next Day" uses a chorus that begins with: "Here I am / Not quite dying / My body left to rot in a hollow tree." The song is a triumphant (and knowing) return to form. Bowie isn't rejecting his age here, he's embracing it and using it as a personal challenge. "Where Are We Now?" is a meditation on a former life, back in Berlin in the late 1970's. "Heat" has a few haunting moments in its slow, paranoid crawl as well.
For what it's worth, THE NEXT DAY is the best (and most consistent) album that Bowie has released since 1980's SCARY MONSTERS. This album feels like Bowie is comfortable with his own legacy; we see plenty of the trademark Bowie hallmarks here. I don't feel like there's any standout single like "Changes" or "Starman" or "Heroes," but this album makes up for it in its consistency. I would recommend this album to any fans of Bowie's, but I think that newcomers will find a lot here to enjoy as well. The fact that this album exists at all is a wonder, but the fact that it's a great one is more than I can ask for as a fan.
Essential tracks to sample/listen: "The Next Day," "Valentine's Day," and "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)."
Additional release information:
THE NEXT DAY was also released in a deluxe edition. The deluxe edition of the album comes with three songs that do not appear on the full version. These songs are "So She," "Plan," and "I'll Take You There." Out of these three songs, one of them is an instrumental: "Plan" appears on the "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)" video as the opening minute and a half before the video begins proper. The remaining two tracks are good, but they don't quite compare to the other songs on THE NEXT DAY. I'd recommend this version for the Bowie fanatic, but it isn't essential listening.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2013
As a fan from the beginning, after a decade of silence I was beyond excited to learn that David Bowie was back- and not just "Heathen" or "Reality" back but with arguably his finest album since the Berlin Trilogy and "Scary Monsters". But I had my doubts after viewing the videos for "Where Are We Now?" and "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)", though both wonderful as videos, the songs themselves left me unimpressed, both sounding like they could have been extra tracks from either of his last two releases. Aside from those missteps, any doubts I had were quickly dispelled by the opening (title) track, one of his best in his formidable repertoire. Full of jagged menace and featuring one of my favorite lines "Here am I/ Not quite dying/ My body left to rot in a hollow tree", "The Next Day" feels both forward-looking and with a hint of sounds from earlier eras, like most of the best songs on this project. "Dirty Boys" follows- a skronky sax-infused funk workout. For me, the next three tracks throw off the momentum established by the first two, though I do like "Love Is Lost". The momentum returns with "Valentine's Day" (with a nod to Ziggy?) and the ascending/descending melody of the wonderfully inventive "If You Can See Me" which is the first song that doesn't seem to have any suggestion of his previous works. "I'd Rather Be High" is also like this and it's one of the strongest (not to mention strangest) antiwar songs I've heard. I love the Beatlesque bass line and that the lyrics go from obscure/surreal to realistic and back again. "Boss Of Me" is DB at his funk pop best- a tribute to Iman? My late wife was a "small town girl" who at her best was the boss of me so it really tugs at my heartstrings. The next song that makes a big impression on me is the anthemic powerhouse "(You Will) Set The World On Fire", kind of an extension of Bowie's fascination with The Pixies. The official final track is stunning in every sense of the word- "Heat" is melodically and vocally minimalist with hallucinatory shades of atmospherics (courtesy of returning producer Tony Visconti) and the haunting lines "My father ran the prison/ But I am a seer/ I am a liar".
Had I sequenced the album, any of the bonus tracks would have replaced "The Stars" and "Where Are We Now?" (though on repeated listens, I'm beginning to appreciate the melancholy feel of that one). Of the three bonus tracks, I like "Plan" the most- it's the riskiest of them, another minimalist piece and the only instrumental. It's like something from "Low" hurled into the future, much like "Heat".
Mr. Bowie has once again surprised, delighted and provoked me with a completely unexpected return to form. "I'll take you there" he sings and delivers on that in spades.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2013
This album will be a huge seller simply because so many people likely never thought Bowie would record another album again. Much like his personal finances, many speculated over the state of Bowie's health after his triple bypass surgery in '04. Some say he can't even make it up stairs anymore. True or not, why would anyone expect someone of means to make an album when he doesn't need to?
But David Bowie does have something to say with this album and there is an edge to many of the songs which I feel is lacking in many of his recent albums. The title track, Dirty Boys, The Stars (are out tonight) all are strong tracks. If there is a theme to this album, I would say it's the pursuit of fame and fortune and what happens to people when they obtain, or fail to achieve it. I didn't expect to hear this in his music but there it is and it comes across well.
The three bonus tracks on the Deluxe Edition should only be counted as one with two other tracks which sound incomplete. "So She" and "Plan" sound like sketches while "I'll Take You There" actually sounds like it would be a good single.
I always linked David Bowie with Scott Walker. There is reason for this. When Bowie was struggling to make it in the 60's he dated a woman who was completely infatuated with Walker who was about as popular a pop songer could be. This came up in a Bowie interview and I guess it bothered him. Both covered Jacques Brel songs. Both artists crafted distinctive music in their solo careers. Bowie went so far as to record a Walker cover of "Nite Flight" on his "Black Tie and White Noise" album.
The final track on this album, "Heat" sounds like it could have come from Walker's Climate of the Hunter release in the '80's. I mention Scott Walker because I hope Bowie will do what Walker does. Not tour so much as record. I doubt David Bowie will tour this album and pick up the write, record, tour and repeat routine again (something always suffers in that mix) but I do hope he will continue to put out solid music.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2013
I just finished listening to David Bowie's latest release, The Next Day. Wow! With the exception of three well-placed tracks, this album smokes! This is vintage Bowie. He's remained current while giving musical nods to his glam rock days, Berlin period (especially Lodger), and his later releases like Heathen. There are even a couple of straight ahead rockers that could easily have appeared on Let's Dance or Tonight. In short, The Next Day is a cohesive whole by itself in 2013 as well as a career-spanning overview of the rock chameleon's discography. I bought the deluxe version with the three bonus tracks. They fit right in with the rest of the album and are essential! It's too bad that Bowie has said that he won't tour for this album. Maybe there will be an HBO special? Or maybe late night talk show appearances or even Saturday Night Live? One thing is for sure: It's nice to say that this is Bowie's best album since Scary Monsters and actually mean it!
ADDITIONAL NOTES: I don't want to mislead anyone regarding the "musical nods" sentence. This is very definitely a progression of his later stuff but is the first consistently great album, I think, in about 30 years. The sound is more muscular while the lyrics show a man comfortable in his own skin with the wisdom that only a lifetime of experience can provide. While Bowie might be a rock chameleon, the great thing about The Next Day is that it finally shows us Bowie as Bowie. It's brilliant!
One more ironic thing: The lyrics on the inside sleeve almost require a magnifying glass to read them! Is this Bowie's way of saying to us Baby Boomers that we should take a closer look at his lyrics?