David Bowie – The Next Day
Anytime an artist of David Bowie’s stature releases a new album, there is discussion of it. Endless discussion. All the rock snobs want to trip over their tongues praising the new release whether or not the new work even deserves it.
Unfortunately, for me, The Next Day doesn’t come up to the standards of David Bowie’s string of near-perfect albums, and thus suffers in comparison. It’s pretty good, though when I want to hear a Bowie album, I still queue up Low, or Heroes, or Station to Station, or Ziggy Stardust, or you get the idea. That said, if you are familiar with those other, better albums, The Next Day is quite listenable. There are no obvious duds here. Who knows, maybe in a couple of years, it will have burrowed deeper in my brain. Sometimes music takes a while to get embedded.
The Next Day has a strong connection to the late-1970s period when Bowie and producer Tony Visconti made their Berlin trilogy of Low, Heroes and Lodger. It also has the low-register guitar attack of Scary Monsters. The songs are in the reflective mode of his excellent (if crazily underrated) midlife LPs: Earthling and Hours in the late 1990s, Heathen and Reality in the early 2000s. The sharp-edged guitars suit the tunes – wry, soulful, adult, resistant to maudlin hysterics or overwrought sentiment.
“The Next Day” sets the tone right from the opening moments, rocking out as Bowie snarls, “Here I am, not quite died/My body left to rot in a hollow tree.” Even though he sings, “I can’t get enough of that doomsday song,” Bowie has never sounded further from doomsday. Instead, he ranges from a furious anti-war rant (“I’d Rather Be High”) to compassion for doomed youth (“Love Is Lost”) to marital love (“Dancing Out in Space”). The album ends with the spaced-out electronic drone of “Heat,” as he repeats the words “I tell myself/I don’t know who I am.”
Though he sings most of The Next Day in his staccato rock voice, Bowie holds back his torch-song theatrics for two big ballads, the goth doo-wop of “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die” and the majestic New Romantic love song “Where Are We Now?”
(click here to continue reading The Next Day | Album Reviews | Rolling Stone.)
Cole Morton recounts how producer Tony Visconti wandered around Manhattan listening to the rough mixes on his headphones:
Still, Tony Visconti thought his friend had given up writing songs, so was “totally surprised” to receive an email from Bowie in November 2010, while he was producing the Kaiser Chiefs’ album in London. “He said, ‘When you get back, do you fancy doing some demos with me?’ This was the first time since Reality [in 2003] that it was even suggested that we do anything in any studio, so I was quite taken aback. There was no preamble, no warning. It was really weird.”
A few days later, Visconti found himself in “a small, grimy room” at 6/8 Studios in Manhattan, close to Bowie’s home. “Sterling Campbell was on drums, I was on bass, David was on keyboards, Gerry Leonard was on guitar. By the end of five days we had demoed up a dozen songs. Just structures. No lyrics, no melodies and all working titles. This is how everything begins with him. Then he took them home and we didn’t hear another thing from him for four months.” Why was that? “He wanted to listen and be certain he was on the right track.” They returned at last to a more upmarket studio called the Magic Shop, also within walking distance of the Bowie home. Now the drummer Zachary Alford and bassist Gail Ann Dorsey were involved. The guitarist Earl Slick joined in later.
“We only recorded for two-week periods and then we would take months off again while David analysed it all,” says Visconti. “I was walking around New York with my headphones on, looking at all the people with Bowie T-shirts on – they are ubiquitous here – thinking, ‘Boy, if you only knew what I’m listening to at the moment.’ ” Everyone involved in the project had to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
“For the older members of his tribe, we didn’t really need to do that.”
(click here to continue reading David Bowie is healthy and may even sing in public again, says Tony Visconti – Telegraph.)