Thursday, 7 March 2013


I was supposed to write a  short piece about the new record but it appears someone else got there first. Bugger. It's a 6.5 out of 10 from me. Aladdin Sane is a 9, Low is an 8, Scary Monsters is an 8 and Tin Machine II is a 6 just to give you a sense of scale. Here's my rather lame listening notes with poor spelling and all. Spell check broke you see. Indeed, I'll be surprised if it posts at all. EDIT: Oh it has.

The Next Day - Well well, a pleasant surprise after those curious lead singles (see below!). Surely an Iggy Pop song? Or at least, they used the Iggy plug ins throughout. Proto Tin Machine (a new genre?) late 80s rock. For some reason, I can imagine early INXS demos sounding like this. Believe it or not, that's a compliment. Makes me think the album was possibly recorded by Bowie alone on Garageband. Enough random lyric elements to keep the faithful swooning. A possible knowing rewite of I'm Quite Ahead Of My Time from here. And definitely an update of '87 & Cry from Never Let Me Down which shares exactly the same verses.

The Dirty Boys - Uh oh. Alarm bells. Why is this the second track? No, wait, this is excellent. Fruity sax and staccato humping. Good half chorus. Another decent track. Well done! Although not track 2. No way - a problem I've had with most of the best Bowie albums to be honest. Don't fight it! Strangely Diamond Dogs-esque but with nothing to actually shout this out. Two tracks in and this is shaping up well.

The Stars (Are Out Tonight) - You've heard this one already. Second single and similar to the weaker rockers off Reality. 'Rocker' is misleading, mind. Seems to be a rewite of Shopping For Girls off Tin Machine II but sung in the american accent of the Reality cover of Pablo Piccasso. Skip. I found the video to be a cheap shot too. I thought it was a spoof using the opening titles and clips from an unseen 80s Bowie film. Maybe that was the point? He's explored that theme in almost every video since '96. The addition of Tilda was a marketing man's wetdream, but got a big doh from those of us who had been in on that joke since she first appeared in, I dunno, The Beach?

Love Is Lost - That said, I did think the whole album was a hoax when announced back on 8th January. You see, the weeks leading up to it, the official Bowie website had been down and I assumed it had been hacked by a joker who had made up some amusing Placebo / Suede song titles. Like Love Is Lost. Oh hello. This one has Earthing keyboard instantly giving it a homely feeling. A bit plodding if I'm honest and lacking anything resembling a chorus. Perhaps a bit long at 4 minutes. I like Tin Machine, but this ends up like one of their less tracks sadly.

Where Are We Now - A newsworthy return to the charts from our pal Bowie. All at once blowing the 10 year hard fought mystique he had built up. Much has been said about that of course (It is arguably only be then last 4 or 5 year he's been inactive) and there's no room for more speculation here, although you might like to read this rather OCD discussion about Toy. A really really painfully sad song that I begrudgingly loved through a whole 2 days of News 24 items on it. A great video, so memorably described by Noel G (the man who took Rain to even greater heights) as looking like it had been directed by a cat. Straw hats and rosary beads off to all involved. I assume it was by a Hoxton art grad. For a brief moment I had hoped the whole album would be like this as he obviously has no singing voice anymore. I was wrong about that, as he is singing far better now than on any album since Earthling. Gone is the nasal whine, back is the Bowie of old. You have to think his turn on Extras made him realise he still had it. Not on this track though. Not sure what's going on there. Acting is it? Come off it.

Valentines Day - A stinker. Not sure what I'm supposed to do with this one. Plod plod plod. First truely uninspiring guitar lines of the album dressed up as rockin good time rockness. Pay them more, Mr Bowie! That will solve it!

If You Can't See Me - Much has been said about this track being like a jungle track from Earthling. It isn't. It is Like Zeroes from Never Let Me Down. But this has King Crimson wide eyed and ripping it apart. I like this, but that might just be that the vocal tone which is pretty obviously late 80s Bowie managing to make a melody fit when it doesn't quite. Nice abstract riffage and the comforting sound of the Bowie I used to listen to on rainy Sundays when all you could get in the shops was the 1966 EP and Never Let Me Down.

I'd Rather Be High - Oh God. You can imagine later era Oasis falling over themselves to write a song this ...nothing. Hey, a tune about being high... it needs a mystical hippy guitar line! And some terrible lyrics! I assume this is about Vietnam, and possibly recorded to be played over a montage of a sad Tom Hanks watching his soldier buddies getting high. In the 60s. In Vietnam. On drugs. Toss.

Boss Of Me - One of the bigger stinker in the song title department. So that's one box ticked. Smooth rock for the 80s. Oh, it's 2013. There is no need for this track. I assume this will be the next single as it is all so obvious. Lots of radio play so far, I assume as it sounds 'amazing through a decent hifi set up'. I'm hearing that argument a lot recently :o(

Dancing Out In Space - 2nd biggest stinker in the song title department. Starts like a weak Modern Love with a bad verse but has enough in the choruses to win me over. Another Tin Machine esque R'n'B blow out put through the Absolute Beginners blender. I like it, it could be an old King Bees tunes dug up like he did on Toy. Hang on, should the listener be doing this much work to like a pop tune?

How Does The Grass Grow -I can't for the life of me think of the song this reminds me of. But that's all forgotten by the time the Apache steal comes in. This is probably the worst song here. Side 2 of Never Let Me Down.

(You Will) Set The World On Fire - Another 80s rocker from an old man. Nothing to recommend it. You can imagine in the sessions they though this was the most mental thing they've ever done. It really isn't it sadly. Check out A Big Hurt from Tin Machine II for this, but done better.

You Feel So Lonely You Could Die - A vaguely Doo Wop slowie. Nice. A flimsy song if I'm honest and another that could be improved endlessly with a better band and much thicker sound. Although I'm sure Visconti and Bowie are deaf by now anyway. A good song, really let down by the production. Get a choir on there, man. That would've meant loads more secrecy contracts to draw up. Yes, a good song though. And yes, those are the drums from 5 Years at the end, although the poor 1978 tour version. Why can no other drummer do that beat properly? Bring back Woody!

Heat - Bowie doing Scott Walker is always fun. This isn't fun though. And because it's not fun it is excellent. I'd still go to the bar though when he plays it at the Old Blue Last.

UK Bonus Tracks. The best tracks from the Reality sessions were on the bonus disc, so I have high hope for these.

So She - Almost the Bowie of Come And Buy My Toys. A charmingly simple motif repeated throughout the strangely sad tune. Almost like a skiffle take on Mile End by Pulp if it was on His And Hers. A wintery summer song. One of my favourites on the whole album (EDIT: Favourite along with 'Born In A UFO' from The Next Day Extra)

Plan - Not keen, especially as it was suggested it wouldn't have been out of place on Low or Station To Station. A short slab of motorik drums and 'dark' guitar varooooms. Live intro music if ever I heard it, and therefore a curious inclusion.

I'll Take You There - Fittingly, the album ends with another helping of Reality style old man rock. It screams ATTITUDE but it limps along like so many later era Bowie rockers, however wins me over with some proper Bowie singing and a classically awsome rock mid8. Like so much of the album would undoubtedly be far better with a less lame band behind it. A shame.

God Bless The Girl - From the super long Japan only version. Shifts the balance of the album to being an enjoyable listen. These extra tracks really add to the disc. This one is very good. Again very 80s, almost like his soundtrack songs from that decade. No bad thing! I like this version of the album very much.
Conclusion: The best songs here are far better than most of the stuff on Hours, Heathen and Reality, but not anywhere close to the majesty we were told to expect. A very very promising album that sadly fails to deliver much beyond what those same three albums gave us. I'm not too sure if I'm supposed to listen to it much or he just did it to spite the upcoming V&A exhibition (which is now instantly out of date). Although there are people out there who think this is Bowie's best album. I am genuinely happy for them and pleased he is back. I don't like the album cover. The single sleeves are good though. A nice Ziggy one for the next single plz. I like it.

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