Rock ‘N’ Roll chameleon David Bowie returns with his 24th studio album entitled ‘The Next Day’ following a ten-year recording hiatus. Legendary producer and Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti is at the helm once again having reignited Bowie’s creative flame on preceding albums ‘Heathen’ and ‘Reality.’ As such ‘The Next Day’ is the natural successor to those albums creating yet another trilogy in the Bowie cannon, rather than the quadrilogy implied by the album’s title and art work (which recasts the cover of seminal album ‘Heroes’) and Berlin-centric lead single Where Are They Now?.
However, that is not to say that ‘The Next Day’ isn’t a reflective album, as much of the albums fourteen tracks (and three bonus tracks) hark back, either lyrically or sonically to some aspect of Bowie’s heyday. Opening track The Next Day finds Bowie traversing a sonic cousin of Joe The Lion and TVC 15 with suitably fiery lyrics “Here I am not quite dying, my body left to rot in a hollow tree, its branches throwing shadows on the gallows for me.” Bowie’s voice all the while sounding rejuvenated and bizarrely similar to Sisters of Mercy frontman Andrew Eldritch. It’s a track that lays down a marker from the outset.
Second single The Stars (Are Out Tonight) displays Bowie’s remarkable knack for creating simple and memorable melodies. Gael Ann Dorsey’s dancing bassline is mimicked by Bowie’s “oh oh oh oh” backing vocal which the track hangs upon. The fluffiness of the melody is counteracted by the ponderous lyrics on celebrity culture
Emotive lead single Where Are They Now?, centres on the fear experienced by people moving from East to West Berlin, rather than any personal experience Bowie may have had whilst living in Berlin. It’s an unusual but worthwhile lyrical subject, which ponders the post-war European experience. Oddly It is also one of the tracks which most ties ‘The Next Day’ to Bowie’s previous brace of albums as it sits more comfortably alongside tracks such as The Loneliest Guy and Bring Me The Disco King.
I’d Rather Be High leaps forth as a probable single thanks to its flower-power-esque eastern tinged guitar riffs; but if you delve past the joyous surface, there is an abstract dream-sequence of lyrics referring to Nabokov naked on a beach, generals in Cairo and Bowie lying down on his parents’ grave. Somehow these dispirited elements connect to create a thoroughly enjoyable song. (You Will) Set The World On Fire begins with a guitar riff straight out of the Aladdin Sane playbook before reeling through a white soul era-esque chorus. It’s a nonsensical highlight that’s sure to be a live favourite, when the non-touring Bowie tours.
It’s Bowie’s most coherent collection of songs since Let’s Dance and his finest collection of rock songs since ‘Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)’. This is probably a result of sticking largely to guitar based music since 1997’s ‘Hours…’ A steady improvement has followed on each subsequent release and ‘The Next Day’ is no different. And it could have been stronger still, if bonus material, such as, So She and I’ll Take You There had been included on the album proper. It’s quite an achievement for an artist to better his previous 10 albums, but that’s exactly what Bowie has done on ‘The Next Day.’