December 13, 2013 David Bowie – The Next Day (Album review)
David Bowie is a name which transcends 5 decades. As an iconic rock n roll figure he has touched the hearts of so many fans over the years. From his early folk rock style of David Bowie (1967), to the breakthrough album Space Oddity (1969), to his harder rock era of The Man Who Sold The World (1970), to the glam rock era of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972); Bowie has always been on the cutting edge of inventive music. Strong in imagery and sound filled with concept and texture, Bowie continued to make new and interesting music into the 1980’s with Let’s Dance (1983) among others. In the 1990’s Bowie reinvented his sound once again with records like Black Tie White Noise (1993). Transporting into the new millennium, Bowie remained active releasing a couple of records in Heathen (2002) and Reality (2003). Now a decade away from the studio Bowie brings his fans a brand new album in 2013 entitled The Next Day. For many The Next Day comes with extreme anticipation as 10 years is a long time to wait for a new album. The anticipation levels are that much higher because so much has changed in the long layoff and fans may wonder where Bowie would go with his music now. Over his career he has always managed to transition with the trends and styles flawlessly. Keeping familiar faces around him, Bowie works with Tony Visconti on The Next Day. Visconti has been a friend and colleague of Bowie since the Space Oddity (1969) album. Now back together again with Bowie, all questions raised by fans is answered in the form of Bowie’s twenty fourth studio album The Next Day.
First thing fans will notice is the album artwork, designed by Jonathan Barnbrook, which is in fact an adaptation of the 1977 album Heroes with simply a white square covering Bowie’s face. Rather interesting to say the least and undoubtedly attention grabbing. The album opens with the title track “The Next Day” which has quite a rock feel with an upbeat sound, classic rock guitars, and Bowie’s signature vocal styling. Lyrically dark and provocative, this leads the listener to believe this is going to be quite an intense record. On “Dirty Boys” we are given a very off beat artistic style track. The guitars remain a key aspect of the music with some saxophone which almost works as an additional vocal on the track. “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” is a beautiful track filled with a diverse mix of acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and a magnificent bass line. With “Love is Lost” Bowie creates a dark sound with some great use of synthesizers. The song is extremely modern in styling and could reach a younger audience with ease. Next is the first single of the album in “Where Are We Now?”. This sober piano driven track can’t help but provoke a string of emotions. The mood sets an ambiance not felt in many modern tracks in 2013. Bowie picks the listener right back up on the following track “Valentine’s Day” with a more upbeat sound. Keeping the record diverse, “If You Can See Me” has a heavy progressive rock sound. Bowie voice inflicts almost as spoken words over the music which at times is almost unsettling. Bowie has always been known to push the boundaries within music and this track continues that trend in a successful matter. The intensity level is brought down a notch with tracks “I’d Rather Be High” and “Boss Of Me”. With a more simple song structure laced with catchy guitar melodies and powerful bass lines the tracks mix things up nicely. The track “Dancing Out in Space” possesses some of the albums most beautiful guitar sounds that will in trance you. “How Does The Grass Grow” is a catchy pop rock track with strong usage of synth and unforgettable falsetto backing vocals. It is tracks like these that make Bowie a one of a kind song writer.
With the recording coming near a close you are given the heaviest straight ahead rock track on the album in “(You Will) Set The World On Fire”. The guitar rhythm is heavy, in your face, and plain exciting. Bowie’s voice fits the music well and this is perhaps the best track on the album. After rocking you hard Bowie takes the listener down gently with “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die”. The track has a dark quality with its haunting soundscape and Bowie’s emotional vocals. “Heat” closes out The Next Day with the darkest deepest offering on the record. Eerie musically and lyrically, this is a song which takes more than one listen to completely grasp. If you put up the extra funds to purchase the deluxe edition of the album it’s well worth it. The track “So She” is a great catchy track with a very 1980’s sound and beautiful singing by Bowie. “Plain” is doomish instrumental track mixing electronic sounds with distorted guitars. Without the use of vocals, Bowie’s vision and emotion is felt in this short but well crafted track. The final bonus track “I’ll Take You There” is more on the classic rock style again and reminds you of vintage style Bowie.
The Next Day is an interesting mix of rock with elements of synth. There is a good balance of straight forward rock and abstract art rock tracks. There is a very dark underlined concept felt throughout The Next Day lyrically and musically. Bowie fans will rejoice at the opportunities to have fresh songs from one of rock’s most original musicians. It is unfortunate Bowie has declined to do any live performances associated with the new record and it would be a true blessing for the music world to see Bowie in a live setting again. CrypticRock give this album 4 out of 5 stars.