"Here I am / not quite dying/ My body left to rot in a hollow tree" chants David Bowie on the opening track "Next Day" off his first album in 10 years. Wow. For the longtime Bowie fanatics, we know we cannot be extremely bitter about his hibernation. Just as news of The Next Day surfaced in January, a firing anticipation caused the hands of the clock to slug onward into March. It's Bowie - we're not expecting a whirlwind world tour and gigantic hoo-rah to celebrate or even promote the piece - he simply doesn't need to do that.
As Bowie's 27th studio album, there is a point to be made in the irony of the number. Whatever one could suspect upon a Bowie return, it's right there for you. He's revived Stardust, Space Oddity, and he's still selling the world. After the release of the single "Where Are We Know?" on his 66th birthday (January 8), an always new-sided Bowie resurfaced for a new generation to appreciate. Although the single wasn't extremely telling of how the album would turn out, Bowie's familiar wallowing sound waves seeped through the symphony sounds on the track and read as if he still needed to be heard - whether it was for the fans or himself is irrelevant.
With the subtle reminders of Bowie's past, such as the guitar licks on "Dirty Boys" echoing some elements of "Fame" with some added funk from the saxophone, or "I'd Rather Be High" sounding like a perfect Vietnam-era protest song, we can always relish in his truthfulness. In today's music world, where fads come and go thoughtlessly, an artist of Bowie's stature doesn't have to rely on trend; he relies on honesty. "I'd Rather Be High" is just the song to satisfy the worries of today's political madness, which flies over far too many heads of a younger generation. The guitars are aggressive throughout The Next Day, and "Boss of Me" is no exception to this.
Much of the familiarity can be owed to longtime producer Tony Visconti, who seems to always perfectly complement Bowie's compelling moods. What's so riveting about this album is how emotional it gets. It is safe to say that tracks like "You Feel So Lonely You Could Die" and "Love is Lost" feel relatable to people of all ages. It's chilling. He incorporates synth, never making it the center point, but using them as propellers to his thematic voice that has yet to wither in any way. His energy is timeless, chilling, and irrevocably satisfying.
Overall, the album digs into the glam rock Bowie as well as the more orchestral rocker. All past inferences aside, The Next Day serves as yet another milestone in the legacy of Bowie. What else could you expect? Over 40 years after the birth of Ziggy Stardust, we still have an untouchable, timeless artist showcasing his genius.