by Stephanie Colombini
After ten years of lying low and driving fans crazy with curiosity, music’s greatest chameleon is back with a vengeance, one that’s pretty damn impressive for a sixty-six year-old.
David Bowie’s twenty-seventh studio album, The Next Day, isn’t the singer’s best album – duh. When rock veterans come out with new material after an absence as long as this, the final product is usually underwhelming and over-hyped. Remember Guns and Roses’ Chinese Democracy, or the Stones’ A Bigger Bang? Probably not – and for good reason. In classic Bowie fashion, though, this album stands out. As someone who idolizes David Bowie, I was so afraid I’d hate this album, which made it all the more pleasing to find out that listening to it is actually an enjoyable experience.
I place heavy weight on an album’s first song; it’s supposed to be the one that grabs the listener’s attention and gets them pumped about the album’s future. I found The Next Day’s opening track of the same name to be one of its weakest; it tries too hard to be a Bowie hit. When I heard the grooves of its follower, “Dirty Boys,” and the familiar sounds of his catchy first single “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”, I started to feel a lot better.
The album is like a rollercoaster in terms of quality; it starts off weak, then gets good, then slumps back down to average before finishing strong. His lyrics can be a little obvious; but it works well when he sings “love is lost, lost is love” on the melancholy “Love is Lost,” or on “Valentine’s Day,” another one of the album’s best tracks. Other times, it doesn’t work at all and leaves you unimpressed, like in “If You Can See Me.” His voice sounds flat on several tracks, but he’s got a great band backing him to make up for it. “Dancing Out in Space” makes you want to do just that, and the guitar part in “(You Will) Set the World on Fire” sounds so much like Jack White; I worried “Sixteen Saltines” was accidentally slipped into the track list.
“Heat,” that album’s final track, is an awesome closer, because it’s just so Bowie. He paints a an apocalyptic picture with gloomy lyrics and vivid imagery. Chanting “My father ran the prison,” he finally sounds less like an old man and more like the David Bowie I know and love. Long story short, if you’re a David Bowie fan, you simply must listen to this album. If you’re not, eh, I’d stick to the hits.
3 1/2 Q-Tips