David Robert Jones, better known as David Bowie has been gracing the British public with various blends of his music since 1962. After a multiplicity of failed releases with several ill-fated blues bands, Bowie struck out on his own in 1967 and never looked back. His albums have spanned both genres and generations, garnering him legions of fans across the world. From his flamboyant androgyny through the 1970s and his involvement with the new romantics in the 1980s right down to his production of soundtracks and even starring in films himself there's not much that Bowie hasn't done over the course of his 50 year career. Now, 45 years after his self titled début, he releases his 20th studio album,The Next Day.
Fans awaited this album with baited breath, given that it's been a decade since he had last released album and even longer since he last released one worthy of his own legacy. After quietly leaking 'Where Are We Know?' on his 66th birthday, many thought The Next Day would be a continuation of the single. The truth is, the majority of tracks featured across the album are nothing at all like the single. Whereas 'Where Are We Know?' is perhaps meant to be Bowie's very own 'Perfect Day' minus the heroin, the rest of the album is an eclectic mish-mash of varying genres; much like his career.
Fourth track 'Love is Lost' is synth heavy and emphatic, a crunchy guitar perpetuates the intro while the verses are unmistakeably Bowie. The whole song is a dark and broody affair which encapsulates the alienation ultimately felt by Bowie himself throughout the course of his career. The song reaches a crashing climax featuring multi-layered vocals and impressive harmonising that adds to the overall aesthetic. Track 8, on the other hand, 'I'd Rather Be High' is brilliantly upbeat and is one of the best vocal performances on the album. A dreamy chorus springs to mind some of Bowie's earlier work and would be perfectly suited to a Summer's evening in a beer garden. The guitar leaves behind the chunky riffs that populate a lot of the tracks on The Next Day and is melodic and harmonious, taking a cue from some of the more contemporary indie-pop bands.
'Dancing Out In Space' features some fantastic brass work, even if the drumming falls a little flat as it rarely changes. Uplifting and melodic, the silky smooth jazz-fused veneer is given an edge in the form of Bowie's vocals which are somewhat abrasive, keeping in fitting with a song that's disconcerting and different, but one which is sure to grow on you.
'(You Will) Set the World on Fire' is just all out classic rock. A chunky guitar riff drives the song forward throughout the first half and hears the vocals sounding particularly sleazy. The second half of the album however, takes a change as he's joined on vocals by Gail Ann Dorsey and Janice Pendarvis, and though the driving guitars are still there, particularly in the solo, the male/female dichotomy gives further edge to a song that would have come off as formulaic and filler without it.
'You Feel So Lonely You Could Die' is perhaps the song on the album most similar to first single 'Where Are We Now?'with a higher degree of optimism and much more uplifting. The song closes spectacularly with further appearances from Dorsey and Pendarvis.
Long time fans of Bowie, who felt somewhat slighted by the single take from The Next Day will be pleased to know that this album is a veritable orgy of different influences and moods, rarely straying in to the slow and mournful realms exhibited by 'Where Are We Know?' In fact, unlike many of Bowie's contemporaries, whom try and capture the sounds of their heyday and rehash the same old formula, here Bowie has branched out and incorporated a multitude of styles across the 14 tracks. While not quite reaching the same levels of avant-garde of some of his 1990s outings, The Next Day is still quite an experimental album, particularly with last track 'Heat' which needs to be heard to understood; words won't do it justice. This album earned Bowie his first number one since 1993's Black Tie White Noise and it's easy to see why. This whole album is something that needs to be listened to in it's entirety several times to allow the almost bipolar nature of it to fully sink in. This isn't Bowie at his best, but it's bloody close and a damn fine comeback album.