Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Next Day

I was cleaning out my word documents and found this 'review' I wrote  last May and never posted. I played The Next Day again and stand by that its a solid piece of music. Here's my belated (fairly rough draft/no polish) take:
Review: THE NEXT DAY by David Bowie

I’ve learned to not review music because since I can’t carry a tune I will end up giving tribute like “this album (hell I’m not even sure what to put there) is really, really good” or “it sucks” or something equally inane. But Mr. Bowie’s latest helped me quite a bit over a long Memorial Day weekend and if I begin by saying this isn’t a musical review but a post for like-minded fans who may not have picked up his latest assortment of songs—then that would be ok, right? So with that aside, and since I can’t see you nodding, here we go:
My first two CDs I bought was Rewind by the Rolling Stones and ChangesBowie. I was working at Ames Department stores and this had to be 1989/1990 or thereabouts. I had been a fan of David Bowie, like everyone else of my generation with the Let’s Dance (1983) LP. And yes, that was bought as an album. (But CDs were the new rage and, let’s digress even farther, I remember they came in these long cardboard cases that were eventually declared a waste of tree and eventually shrink wrapped in nothing but plastic. So I purchased them with my pathetic pay check and once I got off the swing shift and headed home around 9:30 and played “Changes,” “Suffragette City,” and “Heroes” to… well not death because this was a CD after all the new music form was billed as indestructible. )

Out of all the phases of Mr. Bowie’s career it was that late 70’s period referred to as the Berlin era that cut the deepest with this fan. Though I appreciated the earlier glam and later 80’s pop it was the 1976-’79 era that I related to the most. I just checked Wikipedia to find this sentence, “Like Low, "Heroes" evinced the zeitgeist of the Cold War, symbolized by the divided city of Berlin.” Yeah, that and I thought the songs were really, really damn good. Since ChangesBowie I have bought every release hoping to find an album that returned to that style but Bowie, like Dylan, doesn’t retread and instead created new landscapes with Heathen, Hours, Reality, and now The Next Day.
I played his latest (bought on the Kindle Fire) in an endless loop for three days. Days of long, long deliberations on my part and where Mr. Bowie’s vision of the now came through on a wave of pulsating positive rhythmic beats.* My favorite is “The Stars (Are Out Tonight” with the heavens bustling with activity: "We will never be rid of these stars,” Bowie sings “But I hope they live forever."

What keeps David Bowie relevant to me is he continues to write adult lyrics that doesn't resort to entertaining the teen set or fall in the overly wrought sugar sentiment of the adult radio scene.  Bowie writes for the over forty set who still appreciate the guitars and drums of our youth. With the release of his latest his website stated “David is the kind of artist who writes and performs what he wants when he wants ... when he has something to say as opposed to something to sell.” Working on this not a review I see that Tony Visconti who produced those Berlin era LPs worked on The Next Day. Well there you go. No wonder it hits the mark so well.
The New York Times called the album "Bowie's twilight masterpiece". Well he’s only 66 and I’m hoping he’s productive for another forty years. So were halfway there.
*no clue where I was going there.


Scott Parker said...

I'm so glad you mentioned the up-to-now 'last trilogy' of Hours/Heathen/Reality. I LOVE those albums. Heck, I love the 90s material just as much. And the Berlin era is without a peer. About 15 years ago, Bowie himself created a CD for friends and family with all the instrumentals he had written to that date. The Berlin material provides just about all that content.

Now, on to Next Day. When Bowie released "Where Are We Now?" out of the blue on his birthday, I was ecstatic (like most fans). I was resigned to think Reality was going to be the last album. Next Day now might be the last album (but I hope not). WAWN is so, so good. Coming as it did in the gray of early January 2013, it showed a man, just like you wrote, who writes songs for adults. Such a nice breath of fresh air. Stars Out Tonight is probably the standout of the entire LP. The bari sax in Dirty Boys is just plain fun. And Bowie's voice! Not only does it still have the timbre of his latter career, it's showing signs of age (not a bad thing) that further underscore the adultness of this LP. Valentine's Day and I'd Rather Be High are also favs of mine.

Now, are you aware of The Next Day Extra EP? New songs that didn't make the original album and remixes of some songs. You can get it via iTunes so I suspect you can get it on Amazon.

I think you can guess what I'll be spinning tomorrow.

Ron Scheer said...

I was introduced to Bowie in 1977 (Hunky Dory) and have remained attached to that period of his music as well. He has fascinated me as an artist ever since. Just saw him recently in the doc about backup singers, "20 Feet From Stardom,"with old footage of "Young American." Still magic.

I think of his creativity as both daring and intelligent. I rank him with David Byrne in that respect. Like you say, It's music for adults. I can understand a 3-day marathon immersion. Thx for the perceptive review.

David Cranmer said...

Scott, HEATHEN is my favorite of that trio with "Everyone Says 'Hi' “being my go to song. “Cactus” is another track I still play to death—if that’s possible in this tech age.

And I had no clue about the extra material and checking Wiki there does seem to be quite a substantial amount left over. Odd, perhaps, but in my middle stretch, now, I don’t seek out curios like I did twenty years ago. Obviously my loss.

It seems that his live performances will be few and far between but I certainly hope (and the sometimes reliable Wikipedia alludes to this…) his creative spirit endures in the studio.

Ron, I watch a boatful of documentaries and "20 Feet from Stardom" is loaded and ready to view. Thanks for the reminder.

HUNKY DORY (1971) had for the longest time my favorite Bowie Track and that’s the iconic “Changes.” Also “Life on Mars” has aged remarkably well.

Charles Gramlich said...

I like a lot of Bowie. Current favorite is, "I"m afraid of Americans."

AC said...

I was a big Bowie fan in high school (saw him twice in concert). The older I get, the more stunning that Berlin trilogy seems. I agree with Scott that (at least Low and Heroes) it "is without a peer." I've always looked to Bowie's career as a guide for artists in general. You can never win if you worry about pleasing everybody all the time. And the need for an artist to evolve is imperative. I haven't heard everything from this latest record, but what I have heard tells me Mr. Bowie is just as observant as ever. He is one of those musicians mortality has no business interrupting.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

David, thanks for this fine piece on Bowie and his music. Barring the odd number here and there I've never really been a David Bowie regular.