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David Bowie: The Next Day
Just when we thought David Bowie had gracefully slipped into retirement, the sixty-six year old has thrown us all the screwiest of screwballs and released his first album in ten years. Unlike so many comebacks and reunions, though, Bowie has made a return of the utmost grace – one befitting of his age and his already cemented status as one of the most influential and innovative musicians of the 20th century.
The Next Day is an album that, in varying degrees, pops and crackles with a trademark flamboyancy and panache, with a little sprinkle of seventies rock-effeminacy.
Opening tracks, ‘The Next Day’ and ‘Dirty Boys’ announce the album with force, but it’s not till ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’ that Bowie slips back into his flow like the proverbial old slipper; raw acoustics underline the track, before ‘Love is Lost’ strips it all back for a masterful vocal performance – one that sees Bowie dip in and out with a sense of dramatic timing. The album’s first single, ‘Where Are We Now?’ is the first of several ballads; Bowie teases with John Lennon-esque vocals, which threaten to break out into a dramatic crescendo, only to root itself in typical Bowie brood.
On the other hand, ‘If You Can See Me’ ignites Bowies more experimental phases with polyrhythmic guitar lines carrying strained vocals at breakneck speed. Several ballads and a few rock thrashes later, The Next Day finishes on a fade-out that trickles the man’s trademark haunts.
Hardcore Bowie fans have and will continue to gush at the very fact that that their musical messiah has returned with gusto. But for most, the fact that Bowie has resisted stepping outside of his comfort zone serves up relief and regret in equal measures. No one does Bowie like Bowie, and his firm grip of his own musical identity is commendable. But what this ultimately translates to is a body of work that is a little too familiar. The album sleeve cover is an adapted version of 1977 album, Heroes, apparently signalling a break from the past. But whether deliberate or not, The Next Day actually fits his eclectic back catalogue, touching on various tangents of his career.
But this is a collection of songs that need to be delved into deeper for maximum appreciation. The most significant element of The Next Day is that Bowie’s words in no way show any yearning for the days of Ziggy Stardust, face paint and leather trousers. Lyrics touch on the fleeting nature of fame and his humble beginnings, amongst other things, though through a completely intangible perspective.
And so in the end, it’s a catch twenty-two situation; this is a refreshing release that stands alone in this still relatively young year; but Bowie has been such an innovator that you can’t help but feel a twinge of defeat. At his age, though, maybe it’s for the best. Either way, like so many of Bowie’s albums, The Next Day has been conceived and executed in an ethereal bubble, unconcerned with the world around it.
Album opener ‘San Angeles’ will get feet moving and booties shaking, but the rest of the album is decidedly more post-rock oriented. The influences of Pink Floyd only really make a grand appearance on psychedelic tune ‘Lunar Drift’, with its spooky synths and echoing bass line.
‘The Eliminator’ takes the listener back to the eighties again, as the repetitive electronic beat that is used sounds a lot like the 8-bit sounds that were the backdrop for many early eighties video games. Imagine the aforementioned desert wasteland turning 8-bit coloured.
The eighties also dominate in the strummed intro to ‘Martin Rev’, evoking memories of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’. You’d almost think the guys of Maserati had wished they were making music a few decades ago.
Having released no new material for almost a decade, Metallica finally return to the scene with their latest album Hardwired… to Self-Destruct. Written mostly by James Hatfield and Lars Ulrich, this is the first album that doesn’t include any song writing contributions from Kirk Hammett since he joined the band in 1983; when the album was being written, he lost his phone in a Copenhagen airport which included 250 riff ideas so he had to start from scratch.
The two disk album has 12 tracks in total with 6 on each that still retain the thrash metal vibe that Metallica has come to be known for. Following the same fast pace, the first song ,‘Hardwired’ starts with a steady drum and guitar riff that will get you head banging and tapping your feet in no time.
With strong songs like ‘Moth into Flame’ and ‘Halo on Fire’, the first disk has the familiar thrash tropes that make it what it is; it’s fast, it’s hard, it’s in your face and has an attitude, which is what makes Metallica so awesome.
However, the first disk is not without fault; the fifth song ‘Dream No More’ feels out of place musically as its rhythm and guitar work doesn’t feel cohesive with the rest of the songs on the disk, as if it was supposed to be on a different disk or in another album as it goes from fast then slow and conflicting itself.
The second disk, on the other hand, starts on a different note with songs like ’Am I Savage?’ and ‘Here Comes Revenge’ following a slower tone than the rest of the album, though ’Spit out the Bone’ might be the fastest song on the whole album and will surely make you feel like you need to catch your breath afterwards.
As a whole, the album sounds like one huge song, especially the first disk which feels fluid and, in a way, follows a rhythmic pattern; however, the second feels a bit tamed and toned down, as even though it has some fast-as-lighting guitar work, it still lacks some oomph to it. Still, it offers a level of satisfaction for diehard fans who have waited for eight years for new material.
All in all, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct is a great addition to the band’s discography; the band members have given it their all, while not showing their age. We just hope it doesn’t take them another eight years till the next one