David Bowie returned to the top of the album charts with his surprise return, The Next Day, and from our side of the tracks it’s a class reintroduction to the star man’s music. Featuring a wide range of genres ranging from industrial, rock, electronica and most things in between, it’s like a time travelling roller-coaster through the evolution of his musical style.
Opening track, The Next Day, may be the highlight of the album, but there’s still a lot to look forward to in the tracks that follow and when things close out on the morose rock opera that is Heat there’s always track 1 to pick you back up, despite its own dark lyrics. With a glam garage rock crossover sound, a high tempo pace and classic Bowie vocals, it’ll be an easy contender for inclusion into a retake of his Best Of album.
Dirty Boys is a slower, art rocker that flows into the light dusting of Apollo space rock that makes up Stars (Are Out Tonight). Love Is Lost is sparse, interspersed with industrial blasts and synth before the Bowie bizarre of Where Are We Now, the single that he returned with on his 66th birthday. It’s a slow burn lament of his time in Germany and though it starts off a little wobbly it heats up as the chorus builds, becoming a strong piano track with reverb laced guitar riffs.
Valentine’s Day is a modern take on late 50s pop merged with 60s garage that has got a very cool guitar and vocal close out. If You Can See Me starts with an intro that sounds like it was put together by Brandon Flowers, however, it soon breaks down into art rock craziness.
Another stand out track is the politically primed I’d Rather Be High, spinning in random lyrics that find clarity in the psych chorus, comparing normal teenage life with a place in warfare. Boss of Me is stripped in the face of Dancing Out In Space’s melodic pop focus, while Where Does the Grass Grow? is a bit too silly to work well with the rest of the album.
Though it would be very unfair to say that things drop off a cliff from here on in, you can definitely tell you’re on the downward spiral to the end. (You Will) Set The World On Fire is too obvious and could have easily been left off The Next Day without any real negative. You Feel So Lonely You Could Die is another slow lament, but it doesn’t quite hold it out as strongly as Where Are We Now. However, it gets down to a deep dark crawl of a rock opera on Heat and while it’s got its positives, you’re definitely glad to hear the first notes of opening track, The Next Day, when the album resets to the beginning.
The reality is that with so many songs and such a massive hiatus you’d expect The Next Day to be a potential car crash, but it managed to be a brilliant album, reaffirming Bowie’s place at the heart of musical invention.
David Bowie, The Next Day review: 4.2/5
Check out our David Bowie infographic to see the Starman’s massive contribution to music.