If you listen hard enough, you can hear a collective sigh of relief from all corners of the globe as, in a harmony of gratitude, those nervously awaiting the release of David Bowie’s new album are pleasantly rewarded with a fine album of up-tempo rockers and retirement ramblings from Britain’s foremost estranged troubadour.
Ten years has passed since his last album, and six have passed since his presence last graced a live stage, but now he’s back, and it’s business as usual. The news of his return came as a surprise to most and, for the die-hard fan, the news that classic-era producer Tony Visconti was on board was even better. But would it actually deliver, or would it tarnish the reputation of one of popular music’s finest songwriters?
Thankfully it does deliver. It would be all too easy for Bowie to make a sub-par album of bland, middle of the road numbers that espouse nothing more than a parody of his former self but this, his twenty-fourth studio, album does no such thing. Be under no illusions: this album is good. Very, very good.
Most critically, Bowie sounds very relaxed across the whole record. He’s not a man bored in his retirement, but a man who has had the time to reflect, reminisce and enjoy where he is. Hence why many of the tracks are very up-beat numbers. The burlesque feel of Dirty Boys being a prime example of this. The opening four tracks are all very much in this vein of writing: chilled out but somehow energetic, full of life but with a lazy day quality to it.
Indeed it’s only when lead single Where Are We Now? begins that Bowie starts to become a little more introspective and, surprisingly melancholy. But in a good way.
There are perhaps few stand out tracks, and spotting singles from the album is certainly not a black and white affair, but what this collection of songs does offer is consistency and quality. Perhaps not likely to gain him many new fans, it will certainly satisfy existing fans until his next retirement. Question marks are still out about his plans to tour, but while the debate continues you would do well to keep this one on your ‘on-the-go’ playlist.