David Bowie ‘The Next Day' (ISO/Columbia)
With the title of his new album, “The Next Day,” plastered in the middle of the cover photo of his 1977 album “Heroes,” David Bowie is sending a message that the music of his first collection of new songs in 10 years not only takes up where 2003's “Reality” left off, but also contains shades of his artful electro-pop experiments in Berlin with Brian Eno and producer Tony Visconti that included “Low,” “Heroes” and “Lodger,” all of which still stand as some of his best works more than 30 years down the line.
With Visconti back at the controls and a little help from some of Bowie's favorite sidemen (guitarist Earl Slick, bassist Tony Levin), “The Next Day” delivers those promised goods, from the spirited and danceable opening title track in which the Thin White Duke proclaims “Here I am / Not quite dying,” to the jubilantly rhythmic, synthesizer-shiny love song “The Stars (Are Out Tonight),” which conjures nostalgic images of young lovers lying in the grass and staring with wonder at a velvety black, generously sequined heaven.
“Where Are We Now?” is a string-shaded ballad reminiscent of John Lennon feeling all romantic and existentially inspired at once, while the altered militaristic percussion and dramatic vocal protestations of “I'd Rather Be High” deliver Bowie's anti-war sentiments in very certain terms. Then there's the soulful “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die,” and the fever-dream drone of “Heat” to round out an album that proves Ziggy still hasn't lost the ability to spread magical Martian stardust and some of the most sophisticated and elegantly passionate pop-rock that's ever fallen to earth.
“The Actor” is back.
— Gene Triplett