Sunday, January 3, 2016

David Bowie : " Black Star "

This is the Thin White Duke's 25th album and it's  being released on Bowie's 69th birthday. The lead single and title track opens the album, finding Bowie in a darker and more surreal place than his last album. There is a very experimental ambiance to things that will delight fans of his Brian Eno years. His collections of musicians  ranges from LCD Soundsystem to avant garde jazz , with the jazz contingent weighing more heavily. "Tis a Pity She Was a Whore" finds the pace picking up in a manner more akin to the  "Black Tie White Noise" era. Bowie's croon is much stronger on this one with an often effortless blend into his head register for a not here and there. Sax dominates the song, but this is not the first time that has been the case with him. A very Cure like guitar opens "Lazarus" which is also the title of a musical he co-wrote. This song glides on much cooler waters, in someways similar to Morphine. It's much more focused in its smoldering groove than the previous song.It is hard to tell if  age has brought an almost fragile quality to Bowie's voice or if he is singing from a more vulnerable place as at this point in the album he has really yet to belt it out, which he does do in a few places on "the Next Day". Or is it a mixture of both and Bowie just making the most of what he has to work with at 69 and making the most of it.

The guitar take on more of a rock tone, while the drums have more of a break beat to them on "Sue("Or in a Season of Crime" .  Bowie's voice carries more of the ghostly quality had on the title track. The song writhes in the cauldron of atmospheric jazz inflected rock, with a very subtle build to it. The staccato guitar line creates a drone as it remains locked in place as electronic weirdness unfolds around it. The song swells into something almost heavy in the same way the organized chaos of Swans can be heavy. In referencing Swans, Morphine and the Cure in this  review  it is actually more proof of the influence Bowie has had on those artists and how it is reflected back here. Don't think that "Girl Loves Me" is going to be a conventional love song as it defies genres. It's has the kind of groove that would not have been out of place on"Scary Monsters". He asks " where the fuck did Monday go" through the song in an odd sing song fashion and refuses to conform to big hooky choruses that might have colored some of his earlier work.

There is a lighter mood and a somewhat more conventional sense of songwriting to "Dollar Days" , which recalls some of the more ballad like moments on "Outside". Which also found Bowie using a similar vocal tone. The sax solo walks all over the song , but somehow it works . The first thought that hit my mind in the first few notes of "I Can't Give Everything Away" was that it reminded me more of the "Never Let Me Down" album. Bowie has always been two steps ahead so he is catching up with himself here. Like the song before it, there is not as much experimentation on this one. The electronic elements sound like they could have come from "Earthling" and have more of a Bowie stamp to them than if he was trying to emulate the edm of today. Right before the three and a half minute mark on this one there is some really beautiful guitar playing, before it rips of into an impressive jazz solo, it was good to hear this guitar player cut loose. I think this is a slightly better album than "the Next Day" which I gave a 10 so that means this has to get a 10 as well.

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