The Next Day [Digipak]
Performer: David Bowie
Engineer: Mario McNulty; Tony Visconti...
Producer: David Bowie; Tony Visconti...
Distributor: Sony Music Entertainment
Notes: Audio Mixer: Tony Visconti. Recording information: Human, New York; The Magic Shop. Say this for David Bowie: he has a flair for drama. This abiding love of the theatrical may not be as evident in the production of The Next Day as it is in its presentation, how Bowie sprung it upon the world early in 2013 following a decade of undeclared retirement. Reasons for Bowie's absence were many and few, perhaps related to a health scare in 2004, perhaps due to a creative dry spell, perhaps he simply didn't have songs to sing, or perhaps he had a lingering suspicion that by the time the new millennium was getting into full swing he was starting to be taken for granted. He had settled into a productive purple patch in the late '90s, a development that was roundly ignored by all except the devoted and the press, who didn't just give Hours, Heathen, and Reality a pass, they recognized them as a strong third act in a storied career. That same sentiment applies to The Next Day, an album recorded with largely the same team as Reality -- the same musicians and the same producer, his longtime lieutenant Tony Visconti -- and, appropriately, shares much of the same moody, meditative sound as its predecessor Heathen. What's different is the reception, which is appropriately breathless because Bowie has been gone so long we all know what we've missed. And The Next Day is designed to remind us all of why we've missed him, containing hints of the Thin White Duke and Ziggy Stardust within what is largely an elegant, considered evocation of the Berlin Bowie so calculating it opens with a reworking of "Beauty & The Beast," and is housed in an artful desecration of the Heroes LP cover. Unlike his Berlin trilogy of the late '70s, The Next Day is rarely unsettling. Apart from the crawling closer "Heat" -- a quiet, shimmering, hallucination-channeling late-'70s Scott Walker -- the album has been systematically stripped of eeriness, trading discomfort for pleasure at every turn. And pleasure it does deliver, as nobody knows how to do classic Bowie like Bowie and Visconti, the two life-long collaborators sifting through their past, picking elements that relate to what Bowie is now: an elder statesman who made a conscious decision to leave innovation behind long ago. This persistent, well-manicured nostalgia could account for the startling warmth that exudes from The Next Day; even when a melody sighs with an air of resigned melancholia, as it does on "Where Are We Now?," it never delves into sadness, it stays afloat in a warm, soothing bath. That overwhelming familiarity is naturally quite appealing for anyone well-versed in Bowie lore, but The Next Day isn't a career capper; it lacks the ambition to be anything so grand. The Next Day neither enhances nor diminishes anything that came before, it's merely a sweet coda to a towering career. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Rolling Stone (p.60) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Bowie broods over the places he's gone and the faces he's seen....And when he hits the delirious heights of 'The Stars (Are Out Tonight),' he makes the future sound irresistible." Entertainment Weekly (p.61) - "Bowie's DAY takes the idea of revisiting past experiments and exposes them to gamma radiation, speeding up the evolutionary process across 14 tracks." Billboard (p.87) - "[L]aden with musical references to his great '70s work, stunning vocals and lyrics that find the 66-year-old still pondering the stars, self-doubt and death." Mojo (Publisher) (p.84) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Like a man back from the dead, he's singing through gritted teeth and loving every second of it." Paste (magazine) - "Bowie sounds genuinely engaged in these new songs, as if he has rediscovered the joy and satisfaction of writing and performing challenging music."
The mercurial David Bowie is the original pop chameleon. He's been everything from inoffensive pop singer to glam icon to white soul man to art-rocker and more in the course of his long, prolific career. Although Bowie's first hit was 1969's "Space Oddity," he didn't arrive as a full-formed pop sensation until he unveiled his Ziggy Stardust persona in 1972. After retiring Ziggy in 1974, Bowie moved from dystopian rock to Philly soul to cutting-edge experimental pop, all within the span of three years. In the following decades, Bowie has regularly released albums and starred in movies. Perhaps the most startling thing is that he's been at the forefront of so many musical movements, inspiring a slew of genres spearheaded by countless Bowie disciples.
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