Earlier this week, as I was working my way through a few hours’ worth of tweets, I saw something unexpected and exciting: a new single from David Bowie! It was completely out of the blue as far as I was concerned, and it seemed that way with quite a few of the commentators too.
The song is “Where Are We Now” and it’s the prelude to a new album, due out in March, called “The Next Day”.
There was quite a media storm about it, which shows that Bowie’s musical legacy will always make any new music a real event. At the same time it means that expectations are always high; and the last few Bowie albums haven’t really met those expectations. He hasn’t released anything for about ten years as far as I’m aware. He had a serious heart attack in 2004 and appears to have spent the last decade based in New York doing creative things, bonding with his family, but not putting any new music out. Fair enough, he’s done his bit for pop and rock music. One of the greatest. I chose a Bowie top ten on this blog a while back, which you can see here. Every track is immense. From the early seventies to “Let’s Dance” in 1983, he had a run of albums which is unsurpassed.
So no pressure then!
And now we have “Where Are We Now?”. Is it any good?
Hmmm, well, first impressions weren’t that amazing. Those first impressions were tied in with the video, which is just a bit… depressing. The positive take would be wistful, or elegaic, but I found it rather grim. Those faces trapped in the mirrors, the lyrics moving across the scenes from Berlin. The former just deflating, the latter showing how throwaway the lyrics are. They couldn’t have taken long to write. No, I couldn’t get excited about the song once I’d heard – and seen – it.
But. But because it’s Bowie, I had to give it more chances. So I downloaded the track from iTunes. And listened to it without the visual aids. Reverted to my normal habit of not really paying much attention to lyrics, other than striking snippets, but taking in the sound, the rhythm, the ambience. And, you know, I’m getting to like it. It is wistful and elegaic. It’s the sound of a man looking back, maybe with pride, maybe with regrets. Probably both. There’s a lovely piano. It’s quite moving. As a piece in the album it could be really quite essential. Maybe a reflective interlude amid some more upbeat pieces. Maybe – we don’t know yet.
So it’s OK then! Don’t think I can go above 6/10 yet, but I think it might grow. Here it is without the video, because I think that’s the best way to take it in.
Try the video on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean about it being a bit depressing. Or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll say, this is brilliant. Maybe…
I will always love Bowie. I will always listen to whatever music he brings out. I will always give it the benefit of the doubt. So I’m looking forward to “The Next Day”.
But realistic about how good it will be.
In the meantime I think I’ll stick on “Station to Station”!