“The Next Day” : Bowie’s new album
The Brown Dirt Cowboy and I listened to the new Bowie album, “The Next Day”, last night. It was quite an experience. The first listen through, we were extremely disappointed; the songs sounded weird, filled with strange and unsatisfying musical decisions, often too short, obscure. I found myself getting angry; this was the man who gave us Ziggy Stardust, Heroes, Hello Spaceboy. What was this stuff? Had he finally lost it, got old, and was chucking out something safe, empty? Well, at least we still had his back catalogue…
Every now and then I could hear sparks of interest – hints that something might be going on that I wasn’t picking up on. Weird resonances from his earlier songs. Tracks like Dirty Boys and Love Is Lost occasionally seemed to rise up – only to get muddled in my head again. Then, after the last track, Heat, Chris said: “That one was good.”
Then the album finished. Nothing like anything of his we’d heard before. We talked about it: was it likely that Bowie, the captain to a generation of space cadets, had lost all his talent and turned out a POS, or could it be that on first listen we were finding it notoriously inaccessible? Bowie’s always been important to us: the BDC was a first generation space cadet in the 70s, turning up at Bowie concerts with the lightning streak painted down his face and dressed like an alien. I was the Ashes to Ashes generation, and didn’t really “get” Bowie until my 5 years underground in Tokyo bashing my head with Heroes. We decided to give The Next Day another listen.
And then another.
The songs opened up. By the end of the third listen of Love Is Lost tears were rolling down my cheeks and my feet were tapping. I started smiling at the lyrics. Yup – it was Bowie. But Bowie as he should be – 66 years old, confronting his mortality and decrepitude, but still the same balls-out honest commentator on his own experiences he’s ever been. I don’t find Bowie an original thinker; but he has a way of encapsulating and expressing the spirit of the time in a mighty powerful and sometimes shocking way, a way that utterly sets him apart and marks him with true genius – a memetic engineer beyond compare. The Next Day is flooded with death and anger; but also weirdness and reflection; and, as it should be, some cracking songs.
I loved it. Fourth listen through, and still exploring. Recommended – but listen to it more than once, and trust the Captain!