David Bowie’s “Blackstar” Reviewed
I guess the hero does it his way. In a world where the only money to make is through touring, David Bowie is a stay at home Daddy, who, after a heart attack in 2004, spent nine years of complete silence, followed by The Next Day, an album much like the sighting of God, once you see it it gives the game away. The Next Day was a conceptual The Force Awakens, Episode Four of the Berlin trilogy, if you will.From just for one day till the next day.
I loved it, especially the “extra” version, with that terrific “Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix by James Murphy for the DFA)” track, and while to be honest I am too old to be a Bowieologist and if this was just was some form of aging alienation revisionism, it sounded like Berlin solipsism only even more impenetrable. Released around the same time as Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, with the inevitable result you’d assume. Bowie sunk without a trace and without a tour to pump it up, it exists somewhere alongside Outside, Heathen, Hours… all those albums you heard once when you got tickets to the gig and have since forgotten.
Maybe better than that. Maybe better than Reality. But Bowie isn’t God because of The Next Day and he isn’t God because of Blackstar, though “Blackstar” is his best song since around 1980.
The ten minute opening track, a three part suite of weirdness and horror with a very catchy midway part that sounds like Rod Stewart’s “I Was Only Joking”, has the stamina of greatness, it earns its length, even more than “Love Is Lost”. The rest of the album isn’t as great, for one thing we already know three more tracks so it is hardly a shocker and “Tis A Pity She Was A Whore” was better without the horns, and for another, it isn’t pop music, it is art rock with saxophonist Donny McCaslin all over track after track: disrupting the outro to “Lazarus” (his song off “The Man Who Fell to Earth ” musical), disturbing “Whore”, taking over “Dollar Days”… Donny becomes Bowie’s other instrument of choice, along with of course Bowie’s cataclysmic vocals. “Don’t believe for just one second I’m forgiving you, I’m trying to, I’m dying to…” he decries on the aforementioned piece of desperate mind fuck. If you’re waiting for guitars have a nice wait… TILL TWO MINUTES BEFORE THE ALBUM ENDS! Though it is, bizarrely,Bowie playing it.
If there is a theme here, it appears to be death through faith and the brutality that ensures. Certainly that’s what I get out of it. The words aren’t great quite but they do grab you by the throat. And the drums throb and throb and throb. This is not mainstream pop and it isn’t written as mainstream pop, but in 1977 Bowie couldn’t help but write great songs, and while this is a good album and will definitely make it to my best of 2016, it lacks great songs, except maybe the title track.