Album Review: David Bowie, “The Next Day”

“So this is what it’s like to be astonished by a new David Bowie album.

bowieSo starts one of the simply legion of glowing, perfect 10/10 reviews The Next Day is receiving. It’s being heralded as “the best Bowie album since Scary Monsters!”, which is funny to me, because back when that album was released I don’t remember it being that well received. Even throughout the ‘80’s, as my knowledge of Bowie and the music industry in general started to evolve, I seem to recall the press stating with each new Bowie album that it was “The Best new Bowie since Low!” I happen to LOVE Scary Monsters and consider it a step above his Berlin Trilogy of albums, and a tad below Ziggy and Hunky Dory. But this ain’t those, and not even close. Not bad, not terrible, but not great. Certainly.

I bought this the day it was released and had high hopes, I mean, who wouldn’t? Anyone with a passing interest in music would have been aware (hyper aware) of the fact that a) this was Bowie’s first new album in 10 years and b) that it was supposed to hearken back to his 70’s glory days, his ‘classic years’. I should have been suspicious but remained uncharacteristically optimistic, even a little giddy at the prospect of this one. I mean, virtually all so-called ‘comeback’ albums stink, the few exceptions being Nick Lowe, Paul Weller and…and…, well, Nick Lowe and Paul Weller (although that Fireman album of McCartney’s a while back was a doozie!). Truly, anyone who is still pining for the Rolling Stones to release a decent album and stop shitting on their legacy, for example, is more than a little bit delusional. But this is Bowie, and if anyone could come back from the dead he could.

Not quite.

The cover, firstly, was intriguing. Was it a bold, ballsy move to signify that this was his best since Heroes? Or is he using and defacing that iconic image as an attempt to play on our collective nostalgia for the man? A bit of both, I think; at any rate, it worked. It piqued my interest.

The first 4 songs are great. Really, really great, with the title track and opening gambit being the best of the bunch and totally recalling Beauty and The Beast, the opening track from Heroes. The second, Dirty Boys, has an excellent recurring sax bit that makes the song, and The Stars Are Out Tonight is a storming little rock number and verging on the anthemic. The first single from the album slows things down a bit, in both quality and tempo, and is just ‘ok’. The next 6 songs are all  Bowie-by-the-numbers (like I said, not bad, but not great) and just kind of float by, unhindered by any real creativity. The best way to describe half of the songs on this album is that they simply exist. Valentine’s Day and Dancing Out In Space are the other 2 quality tracks, but the others are, by Bowie’s own standards, just…meh. Maybe it’ll get better the more I hear it. I’ve listened straight through 6 times now, but maybe I just need to find the right mood to complement this set. Who knows.

So, for me this would rate a 6/10, or if I’m Pitchfork Specific a 5.8.  Anyone else hear this yet? Thoughts?