It’s been a good ten years since David Bowie purposely removed himself from the public eye and disappeared back into the real world and went incognito. At age 66 the singer has surprised us all by roaring back to life out of nowhere with a superb new album “The Next Day”, the title song of which Bowie acknowledges his past but he’s telling you, despite the priest’s last rites, he’s very much alive rocking in the present with an eye on the future: “…Here I am/Not quite dying/My body left to rot in a hollow tree/Its branches throwing shadows/On the gallows for me/And the next day/And the next/And another day”.
In 2004, Bowie suffered a massive heart attack and underwent major surgery followed by a lengthy recovery and self imposed vanishing act. Like a lot of musicians and artists now experiencing their senior years, Bowie has also gone down the road of introspection on “The Next Day” with many lyrical references to his past recordings, morality and what lies ahead. The jacket art, which Bowie had a hand in, pretty much spells it out with the album title on Post-It that’s stuck smack in the middle of a crossed out “Heroes” cover from 30 years ago. He’s no longer the young leather jacketed Bowie tipping his hand but a very present 66 yr Bowie who’s staring straight at you on the inside of the gate fold cover. There’s also a black mirror so you can look at yourself.
Joined by his longtime producer and musician cohort, Tony Visconti and a cast of top notch musicians including guitarist, Earl Slick, Bowie has crafted some of the finest songs of his 25 album career. All 14 tracks on “The Next Day” can proudly stand on their own, but it will take multiple listenings to appreciate and comprehend what’s going on here. Bowie’s writing has never been sharper. There are the expected couple of Bowie ballads, plenty of honking sax and soaring and crunching guitars that won’t disappoint.
That Bowie could disappear for ten years and then pop up out of nowhere with this master stroke of an album, is simply remarkable. “The Next Day” may hark back to elements of mid-career Bowie albums “Heroes”, “Lodger”, “Heathen” and “Reality”, it’s very much in the present and leaves a lasting, powerfully forward moving impression. - Eric Berg