Album Reviews

David Bowie: The Next Day

Written by Andreas Babiolakis

Final Rating: 9.2/10

The album cover, depicting the classic Heroes album art being desecrated by a large block, speaks volumes about this new album. Some may call it a lazy cover at a first glance, but really, it’s most likely the thought process David Bowie had before recording his new album, The Next Day, in ten years. Anything he does now will be compared to his old work. How does THIS Bowie compare to Aladdin Sane? To Low? To Ziggy Stardust? Instead of allowing the possibility for instant hatred due to comparison, Bowie flat out admits that the thoughts of his older albums will linger in the minds of listeners, and it’s best to not avoid it.

But why the huge white square? Why the obnoxious black text? The Next Day is also a significant title because this is Bowie after the storm. This is Bowie after the longest break of his career. This is Bowie post-superstar musician that changed the game. This is the waking up after the storm. Bowie has woken up the day after the decades of world domination, character portrayals, and music defining he is best known for. Is Bowie still relevant the next day?

Like you wouldn’t believe.

This album does not sound aged like many comeback albums. If anything, this album sounds like it could have even come before 2002’s Heathen, which was a much darker and wise album. The Next Day eliminates any memory of there even being a hiatus, because it all sounds so current, and so current within Bowie’s discographical timeline. I’d Rather Be High is a modern rendition of something that may have caused sparks off of Scary Monsters… and Super Creeps. How Does The Grass Grow? sounds like a concoction Aladdin Sane may have had if the character returned to the United States nowadays. Boss of Me sounds like a much darker, pessimistic rendition of a song that may have ended up on Young Americans with its swagger and its groove.

It’s as if Bowie was plagued by his many characters, personas, styles and mindsets during his hiatus. Bowie could not leave his huge legacy at peace. He couldn’t just make music, either. This is not a tired or mindless return to music just to give something to fans. This is the work of an actual artist that had music to write eventually and wants to show the world that he’s still got it. The songs progress so nicely, that you can already feel that they will be timeless even on the first listen. Boss of Me has a great train of thought that challenges itself as it goes on and more musical layers get added. The first single Where Are We Now?, a very sad song about realization, could have easily been a simple, chord-progression-reliant song, but instead it becomes a song that musically represents inevitability and progression chasing the listener and Bowie.

Many recognizable Bowie motifs can be picked up here, including sultry saxophone lines, jangling pianos, absolutely filthy guitars, and Bowie’s typical multiple-personality vocals that range from crooning to howling. If you are a Bowie fan already, you won’t be disappointed as you pick up on these not-so-subtle winks. At the same time, these returns to his previous styles are lovely because they don’t feel recycled either. They do feel modernized, but not falsified. The only miniscule thing is that, while this album does feel very cohesive and like one unit, it feels like a bunch of tributes to a lot of his old albums, which is fantastic. On the other hand, it does sound like its own album but it also doesn’t. This album may benefit hardcore Bowie fans more than new fans of his. Not to say that new time listeners won’t get anything from this album because, trust me they will, but long time, patient listeners will most likely get more. For those who are new to David Bowie: Hey, why not use this as an opportunity to check out most of his gorgeous discography, then?

So the next day, all of Bowie’s characters are still alive, his reevaluation of his older musical styles still live on, and he still has a knack for writing and performing phenomenal music. With apparently enough material to release another entire album, we can only wait for Bowie’s next contribution to a near perfect career. This is not some dirty album one gets just to finish the never-ending collection of one’s discography. This is an album that warrants multiple hearings and multiple realizations that, oh my God, this guy is 66 and still killing it. This album is both a surprise and not a surprise. It’s surprising that an album so late into one’s career, and after such a long break, could be so damn necessary. It’s not surprising, though, because it’s David Bowie.

Favorite tracks: How Does The Grass Grow?, (You Will) Set the World on Fire, The Stars (Are Out Tonight), You Feel So Lonely You Could Die.

About author

Chief Editor & Founder of Live in Limbo. Host & Producer of the Capsule Podcast. Sean is an award-winning photographer and Nikon Professional Services member. His work has appeared on the CBC, Pitchfork, and MUCH. He is an Academy Delegate at the JUNOs (CARAS) and has been involved in the Toronto music scene since 2005. He is also an endurance and CrossFit athlete. You should follow him on Twitter @SeanChin.


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