Saturday, 9 January 2016

Blackstar - David Bowie goes Noir

Bowie's new album, his 25th studio platter, is the sound of an artist giving the modern music industry the finger - still this shouldn't come as a surprise as Bowie's often pulled the rug from under our expectations and gone in a totally unexpected direction. Remember the Berlin Trilogy all those years ago!

Well after his previous album, The Next Day which saw Bowie return to the recording studio after ten years and release a set that owed much to classic Bowie, we could have been forgiven for expecting more of the same when a new album, Blackstar was announced back last year. Of course those of us who know Bowie's work would have expected no such thing, because we know the Thin White Duke, the stardust covered Alien, the starstruck jester is a man of many faces and many sounds. And Blackstar is a kick in the bollocks for those who wanted more Ziggy era-alike vibes...this album is more Low than Scary Monsters...and may be the best thing he'd done for some considerable time. Expect awards aplenty - album of the year, and all that.

Containing only seven tracks - admittedly mammoth tracks, the shortest being 4 mins, 40 seconds, while the longest is 9 mins, 58 seconds - the album is short by modern standards, but it matters not for there is no filler here and each track propels upwards with a jazz infected vibe. I've been playing the album constantly now for the past two days and it's really under my skin - I liked The Next Day but I have no doubt this is better...much better.

Donny McCaslin's saxophone drives the album and is every bit as important to this set as Bowie's voice - the songs are all about death, the end of days...basically your everyday bundle of laughs...and done with such craft that they really get under your skin and each new listen brings up new aural delights, and the odd thought provoking lyric. Bowieologists already are likening the album to his great Berlin experiments Low or "Heroes."  Though that may be missing the point -  Blackstar is its own strange, perverse thing, the ­latest move in a boundlessly ­unpredictable career.

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