Album review: David Bowie, The Next Day (Iso/Columbia)
Album of the week: A Heroes return as Bowie sets the world on fire
Rarely has a comeback been effected with such panache as David Bowie displays on The Next Day. Even the unassuming announcement, with suddenly a single appearing, like the world's best-planned afterthought, has a classy poise all but abandoned in the scramble for talent-show celebrity.
Then there's the cover, simultaneously self-effacing and self-aggrandising in the crafty way it both uses and denies Heroes – and beyond that, the clearest indicator of the style and quality of music it contains. These songs fizz and crackle with echoes of Bowie's classic Berlin period, but somehow sound fiercely contemporary. The single “Where Are We Now?” is the most overt reference to that time, Bowie reminiscing with misty-eyed, oceanic melancholy about his time in the city; but it's stylistically apart from the rest of the album, which charges along with bullish rude health on stalking funk-rock grooves girdered with brusque, visceral guitar riffs and coloured by keyboards.
Occasionally, honking baritone sax adds a taste of greasy Fifties R'n'B; sometimes, strings lend grace, especially allied to the clarinet and recorder on the second single “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”, a warning about the celebrity undead who “burn you with their radium smiles and trap you with their beautiful eyes”.
Death stalks many of these songs, from the reluctant combatant of “I'd Rather Be High” to the protagonist of “The Next Day” itself, his body “left to rot in a hollow tree”. Like much of the album, it's said to be inspired by Bowie's current fascination with nasty, brutish medieval history; but as with songs such as “If You Can See Me” and the suicidal “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die”, the violence seems bang up to date.
Elsewhere, “Dancing Out in Space” and “(You Will) Set the World On Fire” offer obvious, hooky singles potential, before the album comes to a close with the Scott Walker-esque portents and apocalyptic tone of “Heat”, a meditation on identity that concludes with typically Bowiean Janus-face, “I am a seer, but I am a liar”. Or to paraphrase: a storyteller.
Download: The Next Day; (You Will) Set the World on Fire; Where Are We Now?; The Stars (Are Out Tonight); You Feel So Lonely You Could Die
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
HSBC review into moving headquarters from UK 'underway'