Saturday, March 30, 2013

David Bowie's "The Next Day" Vinyl



think most of us by now has had heard David Bowie's "The Next Day."  What strikes me, after the hype and firework like surprise of its existence, is that it's a classic Bowie album.  It tends to look back, look at the present, and then into the future. There are no surprises, except the fact that Bowie is 66 years old and still has things to say.  And he says it well.

Lyric-wise, this is Bowie's  strongest work.  It has the classic elements of the Bowie of old, but here he adds a certain weight to the songs. There's the obvious 'older' retrospective of one's past in "Where Are We Now."  But the album speaks of a historical past as well.  Here is one is reminded of Scott Walker's later work with respect in dealing with history in a song setting.  I would think "The Next Day" wouldn't exist if not for Scott's current music.  Not a copy mind you, but more of riffing on another artist's work.  Some might say that this is Bowie the vampire sucking out the blood of another artist, but that's stupid.  Bowie is like a jazz musician covering a standard.  He adds to the mix and makes the work his own, even though one can clearly see the influences.

"The Next Day" is slightly over-produced in parts but repeated hearings, it adds a pop sheen that I think makes up a tension with repeated listening.  And this is an album where one should hear over and over again.  It reminds me of "Station to Station" with respect to the many layers of guitars.  I hear traces of the 50s in its melodies which gives it that outer existence. And choruses come out of the stars all of sudden.  You think one is following a pattern from A to B, but he goes to A minor or a different song altogether.  The juxtaposition of images and melody are quite startling.  

In the nutshell "The Next Day" plays up to Bowie's strength as a songwriter and his voice is still magnificent.  The beauty of the record is that he very much sounds like he's 66, but still full of energy or using his current powers in a focused manner.  There is no waste on this album, nor is it very long. "Dirty Boys" is Anthony Newley, right?   Its very much of a classic double vinyl album, including the so-called three extra songs.

Which by the way, are excellent.  "So She" is one to put in the box of Bowie greats.  A beautiful melody with matching words.  It starts off with an Eddie Cochran like riff (there goes the 50's thing) and turns into a Bowie West End musical.  Its brilliant!  "The Plan" is Bowie making noise.  So b-side sounding that of course its totally fab.  "And I Will Take You There" is the ultra-glam song that is so Bowie that it is almost iconically...wrong. But he makes it right.
The visual aspect of the album is another layer of its greatness.  Ever since Bowie turned 50 he seemed to be obsessed with aging or the nature of physically turning older.  Bowie has no problem with age issues, or does he?  His album images and videos have focused on the subject matter of his younger identity with the older Bowie looking on.  Thinking specifically of the video for "Thursdays Child" and his current videos for "The Next Day."  And not forgetting the album cover of "Hours" where he's a cradling what looks like a dying Bowie of another identity.  But then again this maybe the obsession of a dandy or Mod.  The decaying of one's body is an obsessive dandy theme since Oscar Wilde.    And with the current retrospective of Bowie's costumes/clothing at the V&A this is very much the case.

Long live the Dandy.  Bowie is back, but of course he never really left us.
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