ALBUM REVIEW: Bowie picks up as if it were ‘The Next Day’

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First Posted: 3/11/2013

When David Bowie announces “Here I am, not quite dying” at the start of his first album in a decade, he means it. At a point when we didn’t expect to hear from the veteran, chameleon-like rock auteur at all, we get one of the best albums of his career, an energized, wide-ranging ride that stirs together familiar touchstones — including personnel such as co-producer Tony Visconti and long-term band members — and comes out sounding fresh and perhaps all the better for the time spent out of sight.

“The Next Day” doesn’t reinvent Bowie, nor does it find him adopting a specific character as he has on many of his classics; rather, it recasts and combines many of the things we’ve heard him do in the past — the urgency of “China Girl” in “The Stars (Are Out Tonight),” his glam-rock roots in “Valentine’s Day,” the late ’70s Robert Fripp collaborations in “If You Can See Me.”

There are a few sobering reflections on days gone by and ultimate mortality — including the first single, “Where Are We Now?” and the album-closing couplet of “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die” and “Heat” — and “I’d Rather Be High” turns one soldier’s thoughts into an anti-war paean. But the majority of “The Next Day” finds Bowie and company in top gear, blazing through the title track, the prog-flavored “Love Is Lost,” the grooving “Boss of Me,” the buoyant “Dancing Out in Space” and “How Does the Grass Grow?”

There’s no shortage of edgy sonics and textural twists on all 14 tracks here, but those enhance more than they challenge. It took a while for this “Day” to come; here’s hoping what’s next will arrive sooner than that.

-Gary Graff, The Oakland Press

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