The Chameleon of Rock strikes again.
Some time last year I wrote to friends over the, for me, sad fact that rock icon David Bowie clearly had retired himself. Aged 65 with nothing recorded except for some few charity or "support new bands" live acts since 2004 "Reality Tour".
I, at the time, acknowledged that he had contributed immensely to the world of music and well deserved to live a quiet life raising his relatively young daughter with his wife Iman and enjoying the growing success of his firstborn son Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code). For me he has been THE rock/music star since I started to get seriously interested in music at the age of 12-13 and I have nearly everything he has released and have seen him perform live as many times as I have had the chance to. Sweden is clearly not on top of his list as performing venues go.
Little did I know - as the saying goes.
A year later, on his 66th birthday, suddenly his rather dormant website (davidbowie.com) and equally quiet Facebook page comes to life to announce the up-and-coming release of a new album and the immediate release of a single track!
Obviously got the track "Where are we now" immediately and could barely wait for full album "The Next Day".
"Where are we now" turned out to be a slow, somewhat haunting lookback at the time spent in Berlin in the late 70s while recording the classic Low and Heroes albums. Good and one of those that eats its way slowly into your brain, you find yourself suddenly humming "where are we now, where are we now" after a while.
Between that and the release of the next track "The stars are out tonight" it became more than obvious that the best way of promoting yourself (at least if you are a superstar) is to say nothing, go into hiding, do nothing. Just the fact that it came out of the blue, no "plugging", no ads, no prereleases and actually 2 years of recording in absolute secrecy created much more publicity than any ever so clever media campaign could have done.
"The stars are out tonight" is rock head on, with wicked lyrics about how the stars (famous people that is) require us fans to survive, how they more and more penetrate our life and thinking. The video is brilliant!
Finally the whole thing was released on 11 March, that is last Monday. I was too busy to get it and then other things happened but on Wednesday I had it in full (not compressed) version and started listening. I could immediately hear 2 things: it is a strong statement and it is no "Let's Dance" full of easy listening.
However I have not really found time to really listen until now. But now I can say: this is one of his great albums! Not sure if it will be "classic", you can not know that until you find it is one of those you frequently pick out from his near 30 recordings.
I do not love all tracks, the opening "The Next Day" being one of them but others are just great. "Dirty Boys", "Heat", .. and actually most songs are not just "good" but really good.
And it is a ROCK album, not at all what "Where are we now" hinted at like some kind of slow nostalgic bunch of songs. There are riffs, drums and heavy guitars all over the place. And the man SINGS like I don't know what. One moment he sounds like he did on Aladdin Sane in 1973, next I get a feeling all the way back to "The Man Who Sold The World", then suddenly it is 1980-90 "Scary Monsters". Wow!
Never do you get any "ageing star drumming one up for the sake of it" feeling. I get a very hard to explain feeling of "echoes" of his whole career APART from the non-vocal pieces created with Brian Eno. I feel like "this would have earned a place on Ziggy, this on Aladdin Sane, this on Hunky Dory, this on Scary Monsters". Really strange.
Yet the album holds together in all its different "voices" and expressions. I am not going to analyse every song, just listen to "I'd rather be high" or "The stars are out tonight" or "You feel so lonely you could die" or "Where are we now" or... or ...
Aaaah. The man is back. In full force.