Highlights: Dirty Boys, The Stars (Are Out Tonight), Love Is Lost, Valentine’s Day, How Does The Grass Grow, Heat
And after all these years, we still know it for a fact: David Bowie isn’t capable of a less-than-special album. He may have been responsible for a number of quite awful duds along the way (oh yeah), but even when Bowie is bad, he sounds engaged. Inspired. (Don’t point your finger in the direction of “Hours…”, it wasn’t all that bland). There’s always this terrific sense of urgency about Bowie’s music, and there’s absolutely no question that the unbelievable 2013 comeback just had to bring out the best in him. Bowie is still trying to be relevant. Just take a look at that cover statement.
No, The Next Day isn’t Bowie’s best album since Scary Monsters. Not at all. The Next Day is Bowie’s best album since Reality (his last one before the 10-year hiatus that included a freak candy incident, heart surgery and a handful of cameo appearances). I’m not trying to be smart or funny: Reality was brilliant. And so is The Next Day.
Tony Visconti produces, and it’s quality, no-big-shakes Visconti production. Some say these flashy guitar solos sound generic, but the very least I can say is that it all works perfectly with Bowie’s songs. Of which we have no less than 14, by turns anthemic, gentle, experimental. The glammy title track blast is the perfect opener, but the following “Dirty Boys” is even better, a sinister saxophone-led groove and an instant Bowie classic. “Love Is Lost” is passionate, overpowering. “Valentine’s Day” is brilliantly infectious. The chorus of “How Does The Grass Grow” brings back the fond memories of Bowie’s glorious early 70’s. “Heat” finishes the album on a high low-key note. It does of course sound a lot like Scott Walker, but don’t worry: we are not in Bish Bosch’s impenetrable territory. He makes it less bizarre, more appealing. After all, David Bowie has always cared about being liked.
I’d argue that overall Heathen had stronger songs, but you just can’t wish for a better album from Bowie at this point in time. The Next Day doesn’t contain one weak song… Well, there’s not a lot you can say here. God knows he’s good, so what do you know? Having said that, we all know that David Bowie is pop music’s greatest figure. Bar none. The Next Day is further proof.