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David Bowie back with ‘quite a rock record’

Bowie in the 'Where Are We Now' videoIt’s been a long time since David Bowie last fell to earth, and even his most optimistic fans would have been contemplating the very real possibility that we had heard the last from rock’s most enigmatic elder statesman. Given his extremely low-profile since his 2003 heart attack, most would simply have been happy to hear that the Thin White Duke was having a healthy retirement. Therefore, news of a surprise new album was greeted with all the fervour of a teenage boy let loose in a bra shop.

The Next Day will be released in March and is said to be a more traditional rock record than Bowie’s more electronic 90s work. The album was recorded in New York and in secret, on and off over the past two years. “We never spent more than two to three weeks at a time recording,” Visconti told BBC News. “Usually we’d work on one or two songs in an afternoon, and whip them into shape so they’d sound like great rock tracks.” They would only add vocals later. “That’s the way I’ve been working with David since The Man Who Sold the World and he hasn’t really changed in his approach.”

This was all the more surprising given that lead-off single ‘Where Are We Now’ is an elegant piece of woozy balladry. Even Visconti, who has now produced a whopping 13 Bowie records, felt it an odd choice.  “It’s maybe the only track on the album that goes this much inward for him,” he said. “I thought to myself: ‘Why is David coming out with this very slow, albeit beautiful, ballad? … He should come out with a bang.’ But he is a master of his own life. I think this was a very smart move, linking the past with the future, and I think the next thing you hear from him is going to be quite different.”

It is, of course, unrealistic to expect an artist in his sixth decade of work to be as vital as he was at his peak – and Bowie was far more vital than most. Indeed, for most of his contemporaries, new records serve primarily as companion pieces to tours. People may speak politely about Wrecking Ball when they go to a Springsteen show, but they are there because of Born to Run and he knows it. Similarly, it’s difficult to remember a time when a Rolling Stones album was of much interest to anyone other than completists. But given Bowie’s health and reticence to tour, it would appear that this may be intended as a standalone piece of work.  He’s always been painfully aware of his image and knows that a record after all this time will be pored over forensically. Still, that’s no guarantee of quality – he liked Tin Machine – but that’s for another time. David Bowie is back, and the world is a slightly better place for that.

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One Response

  1. Rock album? Two words.
    Tin. Machine.

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