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This is David Bowie's first album release for around 10 years, I would not really say I was a fan, but I have always had a slight interest in his music. I really loved him in the film labyrinth, and I sort of started following some songs since then.
So when I found out about the new album I decided to give it a try and see what it was like.
1) The next day - Well as soon as I put this on you could tell his distinctive voice, you do not hear many songs like his any more. But this one starts off with a good beat to the song and the tune was superb I must admit I did struggle to make out some words on the song, but I really enjoyed the beat of the song so this really did not matter in this song. The drums on this song just got me right into the song.
2) Dirty boys - This is one song I was not totally keen on, the tune of the song was not that great, it was a pretty slow song, and if I am honest I prefer David's more upbeat songs as they bring out his voice more. His voice just does not suit slower songs. Don't get me wrong he sings well just not on this song.
3) The stars - This song has a slightly better beat to it, and I found this more easy to listen to. The words are more easier to understand and this one really does make good listening. I did find though that the tone of the beat rarely changed through out the song, and could have maybe been better if it did change the tempo in parts of the song.
4) Love is lost - This one has quite a bit of an instrumental to start, but it does not really get you in the mood for the song, as it is quite a slow start, but the tone remains the same from beginning to end and has long pauses betweens singing, and does get quite annoying, I actually skipped past this song after a while as I just did not like the tone of the music for it at all.
5) Where are we now? - This is yet another slower song, but I found this one to just seem to drone on, it had no real beat to it. He does sing it well but I just found that this song did not really get my attention at all. It just had a poor beat and was far too slow for how I like his voice to be heard.
6) Valentines day - Now this one does have a better beat to it, as soon as I started playing it, I liked the beat, but then it slowed down and it ruined the song in my opinion, but each time the beat went more up tempo the song seemed better, so maybe the beat should have remained the same tempo throughout.
7) If you can see me - This song starts with more of a drum beat to start with, then continues with beats throughout the song, I would not say it's one of his best songs but it is an all right song for the album.
8) I'd rather be high - This song has more of a foot tapping beat to it, not too fast a beat but it will get your feet tapping. The song is also sang pretty well, I would say this is one of my favourites for this album.
9) Boss of me - For some reason with the title of this song I expected it to me more of an upbeat song. It did have a beat to it, but not as much as I thought there should have been. Its not a bad song though, I actually did like this song, just a little bit more beat it would have been perfect.
10) Dancing out in space - This song got my feet tapping straight away as soon as the song started it had a good beat to it, the beat kept up throughout the song, and my feet were tapping all the way through it too.
11) How does the grass grow - This was another song that I liked the beat of it to, the song is pretty meaningless but the beat really makes the song, I have heard better but this was still near the top of my list on this album.
12) set the world on fire - This song had me in mixed feelings, as the beat kept changing and some of it I liked and other parts I did not like. But at least there were more good parts in the song than bad parts.
13) You feel so lonely you could die - This song was another slow song but to my surprise I actually liked this one. Bowie actually sang it really well and his words were very clear throughout the song.
14) Heat - This has a pretty long intro which I felt was pointless for this slow song, that I really did not like. I found this song to be quite depressing and did not enjoy listening to it.
My overall opinion
Well I really liked most of David's songs when I was younger and in my opinion this album should not have been released by him, he should have stayed in retirement while my opinion of his songs were quite high. It could be due to the fact that there is a lot more competition out there these days for him and he is past his sell by date for his career.
I wont say I disliked all of the album as there was a couple of songs in it that I do like. But years ago I liked most of his songs he brought out not just a couple of them. I think times just change and maybe my taste in music has changed also but this was an album I would not listen to much now after my first listen, and should he release more I would not waste money on buying it. I used to love this bloke and when I heard about his new album it brought back memories of years ago. Maybe I was just trying to get some of my youth back, but I should have left the past exactly where it was, as now I wonder what I liked about him in the first place.
Don't forget Bowie fans this is just my opinion of the album so maybe you have a different opinion about it, but we are all entitled to our own. Thanks for reading.
David Bowie - The Next Day
I feel that the old dog deserves some recognition or at least a look at his new album and his twenty-fourth, believe it or not.The album was released on Monday 11th March 2013 and I received it after pre-ordering it about a month ago.Bowie is approaching his seventies now and at the age of sixty-six he no doubt uses his bus pass regularly. OK, perhaps not but it's a nice thought. Bowie is laid back enough to do just that. After having a heart attack in 2004 and having to cancel a World tour it would have been easy for Bowie to call it a day and retire. Music is more than a job for Bowie; it is his passion. The very thought of this aging rocker calling it a day is about as likely as Queens Park Rangers winning the premiership this year; i.e., no chance. I think Bowie will literally rock until he drops and good on him for that. I have never been a massive Bowie fan but have always liked him and some of his music. Most of you reading this will know a little about Bowie, so I will not go into a massive biography on this one as it is a product of the week review after all, so I will stick to that. If you don't know a lot about Bowie, then you are either too young or not bothered so I will save myself the work and time.
For me on first listen The Next Day is quintessentially what we would know as a Bowie Album. It is full of angst and questions of morality (as you would expect after his heart attack) but still has a playful pop inside to its raunchy rock exterior. It would've been easy for Bowie to call it a day in 2004 as I have already suggested but I'm glad he didn't as it is always great when a legend like Bowie brings out a new and in some ways, rather unexpected new album. The fact that Bowie's official website announced the new album on his sixty-sixth birthday on January 8th this year speaks volumes of his nous in the music world and how his fans operate.
Either that or his management were a little clever knowing that his birthday would be wildly covered and linked to the site where people would see the announcement.
Bowie himself had taken a rest and sheltered himself from the media after his heart attack and who could blame him. So in many ways it was a big surprise to many that this album came so much later but to fans it wasn't such a massive surprise as they knew he couldn't keep quiet for long. It is his first album for ten years after 'Reality' in 2003.
The one thing to make clear about this album is it isn't some desperate attempt to make some money. Bowie doesn't need the money and has always produced an album because he wants to make a statement or get his thoughts across, rather than for commercial gain. Taking orders doesn't sit easily with Bowie and he has always done what he wants to do in a creative sense, when he wants to do it. This album is no different. He felt he had to say the things that he has said on this album and so he went ahead and made it.
It might not be everybody's cup of tea but one thing for sure is that it comes from the heart and with some thought and as he approaches seventy, Bowie is as enigmatic and outspoken as ever. The shock value of some of the lyrics might be lost on this world today where kids know too much too soon but if you listen to them, they have meaning and they have substance, which all too often these days many song lyrics are lacking in.
So, let's take a look at the album tracks:
Track One - Next Day
The opening track happens to be the title track as you may have noticed. Straight away you realise that Bowie is going for rock n roll and has lost none of his verve. The main spine of this track is the thumping base and the lead guitar, which vibrates its way through the song. It's got steel but not quite enough for me on first listen. Maybe it is a track I will leave playing if it is on but not one that I wanted to play again straight away. The beat can be quite grating if you're not in the mood for a constant drum bash, but it's not a bad song.
'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 the next day, and the next and another day.'
Track Two - Dirty Boys
This track is in total contrast to track one and sounds like a mix between Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and the Miami Horns who back up Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes from time to time. It is also more akin to blues than rock with a meaty sax solo in the middle of the track.
'When the sun goes down. When the sun goes down and the die is cast. When the die is cast and you have no choice. We will run with dirty boys.'
Track Three - The Stars (Are Out Tonight)
Track three bounces onto the album and we are instantly reminded that this is Bowie. This track is more akin to the Bowie stuff of old and is essentially a pop song with a little guile. I like this track and will definitely be playing this one again and I think it will grow on me.
'Here they are upon the stairs, sexless and unaroused. They are the stars, they are dying for you, but I hope they live forever.'
Track Four - Love is Lost
This is a cool track and a bit different. A mix of all three opening tracks melody wise, with an almost surreal winding motion to it and a synth that Tony Banks of Genesis would've been proud to call his own. The track winds open and becomes more pop-like in the chorus before falling back into the grim churning style that is the underbelly of the tune. A more story-like tune lyrically and destined to be a favourite live track with Bowie fans I think.
'Say goodbye to the thrills of life. When love was good, when love was bad. Wave goodbye to the life without pain. Say hello, you're a beautiful girl.'
Track Five - Where Are We Now?
A slow down to the pace with a ditty little number. It is a slow song but the piano is belting in a Chris Martin sense and really carries the track along nicely once it gets going. It is so slow at the beginning of the track that you do begin to wonder whether it is going to pick up but it does eventually. A song about realising when you've made it big whether you realise it or not. A lot of references to Berlin in this song where Bowie gained a cult following in the seventies. This song holds a lot of memory for Bowie as you can tell when you listen to it.
'Twenty thousand people Gross Bose Bruke. Fingers are crossed just in case, walking the dead.'
Track Six - Valentine's Day
Another pop track that reminds me of something that 'Pulp' would've done. I can almost imagine a Jarvis Cocker duet along with Bowie when he plays it live. The backing vocals are a little cheesy but are meant to be I think. I can't stand Valentine's Day personally and I am quite a romantic person. I just hate all the hype and commercialism; drives me mad. The song was a little better but not one of my favourites on the album up to yet, albeit a little more upbeat in that sense. On a serious side, this is a song that will remind most Bowie fans of 'Heroes' as it does have that mix of heady guitar as a back-drop to the pop sound.
'Valentine told me how he feels, if all the world were under his heels., or stumbling through the mail, it's in his tiny face, it's in his scrawny hands, Valentine knows it all.'
Track Seven - If You Can See Me
Classic Bowie intro; which as always is organised chaos. A fast paced drum beat that seems out of pace with the rest of the instruments on the track; but this is deliberate and it works on a level or should I say a 'Bowie' level'. Reminds me of a Genesis track when Peter Gabriel was lead singer. One thing this track does is convey the fact that Bowie is as passionate about music today as he always has been. The riff is U2 like and you would be forgiven for thinking that 'The Edge' had suddenly burst onto the track. I like the fact that Bowie seems to rise up out of this track in the chorus. The synthesiser sounds really muddled and haunting on this track.'Now you could say I've got a gift of sorts. A fear of rear windows and swinging doors. A love of violence, a dread of sighs. If you can see me, I can see you.'
Track Eight - I'd Rather Be High
Another classy track and one that I liked straight away. I'm a pacifist so I can relate to the lyrics and the fact that everything about war and fighting is wrong, no matter who says that we need it. I like the lyric 'I stumble to the graveyard and lay down by my parents, whisper, just remember duckies, everyone gets out.' The tune holds together well and the guitar riff is steady and not too dominant. The instruments band together and create an almost military march of a track. This probably stems from the period where he went through this type of track as it alludes to his time in Berlin as do many of the tracks on the album. Not so much a reminisce as a look back in fondness for Bowie.
'I'd rather be high; I'd be 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.'
Track Nine - Boss of Me
When you hear the opening chord to this track you would be forgiven for thinking that it was about to burst into Marillion's 'Kayleigh'. It immediately changes tack and launches into the track proper. The song is dominated by rock guitar again and holds its own although it didn't appeal to me on first listen. It is not a bad track but the chorus grinds on me a little as the backing singers rather screech their part along with the wailing guitar, which seems to overpower everything.
'You fly through the night with tears on your lips, Life has your mind and soul, it spins on your hips.'
Track Ten - Dancing Out in Space
It wouldn't be a Bowie album without a reference of some kind to the universe or space. I'm sure when Bowie as taken his last breath he will float endlessly above us in orbit, watching over us. This is typical Bowie and more connected to the pop side of things than the rock. The backing singers are a little more mellow on this track and it fits better. Another ditty little number than wouldn't be out of place on some of his past albums.
'No-one here can see you, dancing face to face. No-one here can beat you dancing out in space.'
Track Eleven - How Does the Grass Grow
This track reminds me so much of the old Bowie I used to listen to. Maybe the reason is again in the fact that it is steeped in the Berlin type stuff from the seventies. More shimmering and warbling from the synth, giving us that sixties psychedelic feeling and an almost surreal quality. I quite like this track without really knowing why, which I guess is the norm for a lot of Bowie stuff, especially when he goes off on one. The almost chanting and child-like backing vocals work really well and the thrashing guitar and bashing drums end out the track on a high.
'But I lived a blind life, a white face in prison. But you made a life out of nothing, now I ride my black horse. I miss you more than you will ever ever know, waiting with my red eyes and my stone heart.'
Track Twelve - (You Will) Set the World on Fire
After listening to the album two or three times now, this is one of my favourite tracks at the moment. It is the song that had me singing along to the chorus on the first listen. Classic Bowie and full of pumping energy and angst. I could see Springsteen, Waits, Jagger and Jack White smacking this one out live with Bowie. Now that would be something. Great rhythm and togetherness about this one and it flows really nicely.
'Kennedy would kill the lines that you've written. Then rock says to Barbie she's the next real thing. Cracks still at hell fly, screaming like a banshee. You're in the boat babe. Reel in the water.'
Track Thirteen - You Feel So Lonely You Could Die
This is an epic blockbuster of a track that reeks of Bowie's competence as an artist and a man still capable of belting out a tune. A rock ballad with a jaunty melody, that is full of angst and triumph at the same time. If anyone questions Bowie's album (I was going to say comeback album, but did he ever really go away?) then this song should push the doubters raucously aside with its brash rhythm and heady chorus. I really liked this track on first hearing and I am looking forward to listening to it again. One thing his hater will say is that this track is morbid in its reference to death, but you get bad press when the people remarking don't get it and try to be clever; it goes with the territory.
'Some night on the thriller's street will come the silent gun. You've got a dangerous heart; you stole their trust, their moon, their sun. '
Track Fourteen - Heat
A weird way to end the album for me, but then it is Bowie we're talking about so it goes without saying. A strange dream-like track or maybe nightmare would be a better word. It ambles along in the beginning like the soundtrack score from a horror movie. This is one I will have to listen to a little more to understand the lyrics and appreciate it a bit more. Bowie sounds haunting and his voice cruises through the thrashing symbols and electric acoustics. The last track on the album proper.
'He believed that love is theft. Love and war, the theft of love.'
So that was the fourteen track album as it was intended. There are also three bonus tracks on the deluxe edition, which are: 'So She', 'I'll Take You There' and 'Plan'.
Tony Visconti is a producer that has worked with Bowie for many years and was alongside him in the Berlin days; hence the Berlin influenced vibe of this album. He has said in interview that he was in the recording studio with Bowie for three months and Bowie would just belt out tunes on a synthesiser. They were accompanied by Gerry Leonard on guitar and Sterling Campbell on drums. Visconti himself would play the bass. When they had mish-mashed their way through maybe twelve tracks that had no lyrics, Bowie went off home and they didn't hear from him again for four months. How amazing would it have been to have been a fly on Bowie's wall and to hear him work in the lyrics to each track? It's a strange way of working but it seems to work for Bowie. The album took a full two years to come together and the recording sessions were all over the place. This is again evidence of the organised chaos that Bowie seems comfortable with.I thought a really cool thing that Visconti did was to walk around New York listening to the early cuts of 'The Next Day' and seeing Bowie fans wearing tee-shirts walking past him and knocking in to him in the crowds. He thought 'Boy, if you only knew what I was listening to now'. The cover art for the album is a reworking of the 'Heroes' album cover.
Bowie has been quoted as saying that he will not play this album live, so it is a big disappointment to fans. Many fans think this means he will never play live again but Bowie has not actually said that and said he just wants to concentrate on making records. So that bodes well for future releases and more material but doesn't look too good if you like to see him live.I am enjoying the album at the moment and perhaps a little more than I thought I would to be honest. I remember buying the 'Tin Machine' album (Bowie's other group) and being slightly disappointed, but The Next Day is quite a cool album and I will continue to listen to see if it grows on me more.The album was released on the 8th of March in Germany, the 11th in the UK and the 12th in the US.The album can be picked up for nine pounds ninety-nine on CD and four pounds ninety-nine on MP3 from Amazon.I give it three out of four stars, which may rise to four over time.
There's a great line in Matt Beaumont's "E Squared" which talks about how hairdressing can enhance the creative process: "It's no coincidence that during his most fertile period, Bowie sported some of the wackiest hairdos in history. As soon as he got the bank clerk cut in the 80s, he went right off the boil". For the last decade, it hasn't mattered what hairdo Bowie has been sporting, as there has been no musical output to compare it to and see if the theory holds. But after a long hiatus, during which he has recovered from a heart attack and contributed the odd song to soundtracks here and there, Bowie has returned with "The Next Day".
The album opens with the title track and it's a jaunty little opening. It's got a bouncy, high tempo rock 'n' roll feel to it which evokes Bowie's "Dancing in the Streets" single with Mick Jagger back in the 80s. With Bowie's slightly gruff vocal, the opening sounds like it would have worked as a Travelling Wilbury's track with Tom Petty taking the vocal. Although the lyrics do take a couple of strange lurches off beat later in the song, the guitar and bass line remain consistent throughout and it's a decent opening track overall, driving along quite happily.
Given how often Bowie has reinvented both his sound and image over the years, it's not a surprise that the second track should be totally different from the first. "Dirty Boys" has a low down and dirty feel to it with a guitar riff that reminds me of something the Gorillaz did quite a few years back. The saxophone is prominent, which gives the song a bit of blues feel. Although it's well put together and Bowie's vocal suits the song quite nicely, after the jaunty nature of the opening track, the downbeat and down tempo beat of the song does make it feel a little less enjoyable to me.
It's all change again for "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)", which has another up tempo and upbeat feel to it, returning to a similar sound as the title track. This one has more of a pop feel to it than the rock 'n' roll feel of the opener, but it bounces along quite happily and it's another fairly enjoyable track, although perhaps a little bland.
The synthesiser opening and regular beat to "Love is Lost" evokes memories of 80s stadium rock, especially when the guitar comes in underneath. It takes a strange little turn about half way through the track, but not for long and the beat comes back in. The tracks isn't necessarily a bad one, but the repetitive beat does mean it gets a little dull towards the end. It's certainly the deepest track so far, musically and lyrically, but it's not one that holds a great deal of appeal to me.
"Where Are We Now?" was the song with which David Bowie announced his return on his 66th birthday in January 2013. The opening chords and synthesiser remind me a little of Peaches & Herb's "Reunited", which provides an interesting mix with a very downbeat and introspective vocal. Whilst it's a bit too downbeat for my personal preference, this is the first time you can really hear the emotion in the vocal and this song clearly has some personal resonance for Bowie.
There's another change for "Valentine's Day", which opens with a dirty blues sounding guitar. The backing vocal is a little cheesy and brings back memories of 1980s pop music. Although it's quite a gentle track in terms of the tempo, the guitar work makes it seems more interesting than the beats per minute would suggest and, as a child of the 1980s myself, I quite like this one.
The opening to "If You Can See Me" makes me think of U2, but the song as a whole seems a little like organised chaos. There's a fast paced drum beat, a vocal that doesn't always seem to be entirely on the beat and it's all under laid with a pulsing bass line. This is a difficult track to pin down, as it seems like a rock version of jazz improvisation and I can't decide whether I like it or not. Regardless of my own personal preferences, it's certainly different enough to stand out.
"I'd Rather Be High" is a little more together, but again a little different to more or less everything else so far. It's a mid tempo song with a pop twist that sounds like it has influences back in 1960s psychedelic pop. Again, it's an interesting track that holds together a lot better than the previous song, but still retains enough individuality to stand out.
It's back to some 80s influenced rock for "Boss of Me", or so it seems from the opening keys. It then drops into something a little darker and you can hear the saxophone coming through. With the gruff vocal and a fairly simplistic chorus, lyrically speaking, it sounds a lot like something Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band might pull off, particularly when you hear the soulful female backing vocal coming through in some places. I quite like Springsteen, but this track just seems to last a little too long and feels like it has outstayed its welcome by the end.
There's a great pop-rock opening to "Dancing Out in Space" that takes me back to the days of 1980s stadium rock, although some of the backing vocals remind me of some 1960s rock 'n' roll, particularly "Let's Go to the Hop". It sounds a little like something Simple Minds might have done back then and it would have made a decent B-Side to "Dancing in the Streets" as well, as it has a similar sound and the same joyously up tempo feel. Lyrically, it's again a fairly simple song, but that fits in perfectly with the music and this is possibly one of my favourites from the album as a product of that era myself.
After the upbeat nature of the previous track, the lyric "There's a graveyard by the station..." that opens "How Does the Grass Grow?" is quite a change in direction. As is the song as a whole, which mixes a 60s psychedelic feel with the electronic sound that influenced some of Bowie's work during the 1970s and a guitar solo that might not be out of place in a 1980s stadium rock song. It's an interesting contrast, but it works quite well. The lyrics can be a little twee and annoying at times, but the fusion of styles worked better here than it did on "If You Can See Me".
"(You Will) Set the World on Fire" opens with a guitar riff that takes the determination of the title and sets it to music. It sounds a little like the White Stripes, before the song takes on a bit of a pop-rock edge in the chorus that would work as a Springsteen song, particularly with Bowie's rough edged vocals. There's a superb rock guitar solo and this is a song that would have been a huge hit in the mid 1980s and it's definitely one of my favourites.
After the rousing call to achievement that was the previous track, it's a shame that "You Feel So Lonely You Could Die" is the next track. It's a well crafted pop ballad with a slight nod towards 1960s psychedelia, but the title and the ends of the choruses keep making me think of Meatloaf after he went soft. The song itself is very well put together and it's enjoyable enough in isolation, but it has such a tough act to follow in "(You Will) Set the World on Fire)" that it suffers from following that track and would have been more effective placed elsewhere in the album's running order.
However, the closing track "Heat", works well following on, as it's a quirky number. It's downbeat and down tempo and a little dirge like. It mixes 60s psychedelic sounds with an almost droning vocal into a strange nightmarish fusion that proves slightly unsettling at times. Having enjoyed some parts of the album and not enjoyed others so much, it seems quite appropriate that the final track should leave me feeling ambivalent about things.
The critical reviews of the album have been fairly universal in their praise, but I'm not sure I can entirely agree with their assessment. It can certainly be argued that this is an ideal comeback from Bowie after so long away, as there are influences here that take in pretty much every era in which he's been musically active. It's got everything here from the rock 'n' roll and the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s, through the electronic sounds and introspective vocals that marked his 1970s work to the joyous stadium pop-rock of the 1980s. With a White Stripes sounding riff and some seeming nods towards U2 and Springsteen, he also covers more recent musical sounds as well.
The major problem I had with the album as a whole is that the constant switching from one of these influences to another meant the album had very little flow. Individually, the 14 tracks that make up the album are very well crafted, but so wide is the range of sounds that it turns into a slightly uncomfortable 53 minute album. The one thing I have noticed having it on fairly constant play for the last week is that it grows on you. I wasn't wildly impressed at first listen, but the more I play it, the more I like it. So this is definitely an album you'll get some decent value out of. It's currently available for £9.00 on Amazon for the CD, or £4.99 for an mp3 version. I think £9.00 might be a little much to pay, but I've also noticed that quite a few copies can be had for around £2.50 including postage on eBay. I suspect these may be people who have listened to the album once and had the same first impressions I did, so I would suggest grabbing a copy at that price before they listen to it again and discover that it's actually better and has more depth than a single listen permits you to fully appreciate.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 The Next Day
2 Dirty Boys
3 The Stars (Are Out Tonight)
4 Love Is Lost
5 Where Are We Now?
6 Valentine's Day
7 If You Can See Me
8 I'd Rather Be High
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Boss Of Me
2 Dancing Out In Space
3 How Does The Grass Grow?
4 (You Will) Set The World On Fire
5 You Feel So Lonely You Could Die
7 So She
9 I'll Take You There