Firstly a quick head up. If you claim to be a fan of music but have no idea who David Bowie is, then you seriously need to re-evaluate your broad and wide span of music taste. Additionally, if you have been living in a hole the past few months and have had no forewarning that David Bowie has made the most enigmatic of comebacks after a decade of long silence, then you may want to listen up already because this mother of all returns is almost bigger than the return of Lazarus.
‘The Next Day‘ is the first studio release from Bowie in just over a decade, to which he reunites with long time friend and producer Tony Visconti to create an album full of retrospective lyrics, which makes references to Bowie’s illustrious past. The album’s artwork is also a defaced reference point to his album ‘Heroes‘, which could easily give an ambiguous signal as to what we could expect from this album.
On the contrary, this album is merely but a musically healthy and eclectic mixture of all the different styles of music that Bowie has summoned and experimented with over the years.
For the best part of this album, this is vintage Bowie, with a slightly modern twist as to where he and his band are at now. Initial universal worries were imminent, and people would often question after such a long time away… ‘can he do it?’. Fear not… because this album is worth every single minute of your time.
Album opener ‘The Next Day‘ takes things in to fourth gear with a groovy as hell drum beat with some rather angular rhythm guitars. As soon as Bowie’s voice kicks in, it is almost like the voice of an old familiar friend that you have so longed to hear after all this time.
The album is a substantial 17 tracks long (three of them being bonus tracks), and each song has their own variety and style to them without necessarily imitating the previous.
Particular album highlights include ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)‘ which is a sombre and gently driven song to that could well be a future live favourite (that is if he will ever tour again…fingers crossed!). Another great stand out track from this album is ‘I’d Rather Be High‘. A smooth and groovy classic rock song with a simplistic yet killer guitar riff that would make you wish you had written it in the first place. Bowie’s vocals particularly are absolutely essential on this track.
There are some more of your experimentally based tracks on this album as well. One that springs to mind more so is the trigger happy jazz influenced prog-rock epic ‘If You Can See Me’, which makes the listener wonder if at some point in the past few years Bowie has been influenced by The Mars Volta. The pitch shifted dual track vocals, and offbeat drum rhythms make for a blinding and highly refreshing listen.
Additionally, there seems to be some homage in some other songs too. Like the riff and vocal harmonies for the track ‘How Does The Grass Grow?‘ is almost a plaigaristic nod to The Shadows ‘Apache‘.
To be perfectly honest, there are so many great things to say about this album, every song is its own entity and deserves high praise to the musical diversity and lyrical span. That and we cannot afford to be bias because it is David Bowie. This album does certainly not come without it’s flaws as well.
One of the main problems that lies with this album is the production. There are a few issues with the mixing, particularly with the guitars (listen in on the title song ‘The Next Day‘, and some of the vocals are too high at times. One feels that the production is a little too clean, and that where producer Tony Visconti has had plenty of intake on Bowie’s sound, there is just an air of predictability to the production, where as in past releases Visconti has been more bolder and revolutionary in how he gets the best out of Bowie’s sound.
All in all, ‘The Next Day‘ certainly does not disappoint. But at the same time, it is not necessarily earth-shatteringly revolutionary either. This album is a surefire welcome return to form from one of music most coveted and respected figures. Welcome back, Mr Bowie. It has been a while!
7.5 / 10
Reviewer: James Paul Matthews