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David Bowie's 'The Next Day' to Stream Tomorrow; Read Our Track-by-Track Preview

 
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Feb 28 2013

David Bowie's 'The Next Day' to Stream Tomorrow; Read Our Track-by-Track Preview

By Stephen Carlick
David Bowie surprised us with the sudden announcement of his new album, The Next Day, but it turns out the veteran songwriter has another trick up his sleeve: tomorrow (March 1), he'll stream the album in its entirety via iTunes, almost two weeks before the album's March 12 release date. According to representatives at Sony Music, the stream will begin at 12 p.m. GMT, meaning 7 a.m. EST.

In the meantime, Exclaim! was lucky to spend an hour with the album today, and we've given an account of what we heard. Tony Visconti was right: The Next Day is indeed very different from the first single "Where Are We Now?" It's nothing radically different from what Bowie's done in the past, but it's hardly a money grab; the dignified gentleman has recorded a vivacious late-career tribute that hearkens as much to Diamond Dogs and pre-Ziggy Stardust-era albums as it does to Heroes. But having only heard two singles leading up to our listen, it was odd to hear The Next Day begin with such bombast. It begins below.

1. "The Next Day"

A slamming snare gives way to a straightforward Heroes-era rocker not unlike "Beauty and the Beast." What the album title track lacks in melody it makes up for in propulsion and flanged, glammy guitar licks that hearken to Bowie's Berlin trilogy stompers.

2. "Dirty Boys"

On this slow-funk track with horn punctuation, Bowie's voice aims for the slinky, sexy quality it used to have, and though he misses slightly, a hollowed-out vocal effect adds to it a haunting inflection. An excellent, choppy tenor sax solo and wailing guitars close out the track. This one would fit snugly onto Diamond Dogs, one of Bowie's most underrated albums.

3. "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)"

A killer bassline propels The Next Day's yearning second single, but it's the oohs and ahhs, as well as the shimmering synth beds, providing the gentle touches that give it real feeling. The lyrics are painfully banal, but this song is much better than its melodramatic video might have subconsciously led you to believe.

4. "Love Is Lost"

"Love Is Lost" begins with a staccato bassline, over which synth chords fade in and out, leaving Bowie's voice alone with the rhythm section. The space sets up a hooky, anthemic chorus that hints that this might be the next single. Bowie's voice has a deranged quality here that is captivating, and the song's climax features Bowie singing over himself and harmonizing, repeating "What have you done?"

5. "Where Are We Now?"

The gentle ballad, our first taste of the album, is a grower. Note the sonic spaciousness of the track, the crystalline quality of the piano chords. Repetition of the track's title makes it hit home, but in his wise, grand way, Bowie hardly seems lost.

6. "Valentine's Day"

Finger-snapping and a jump-rope rhythm make way for Bowie employing his androgynous Man Who Sold the World/Stardust-era vocals. The tinny, rough guitars that adorned much of Heroes feature as decoration on many of these songs, including on this short, simple track. It's not surprising: peep The Next Day's album art.

7. "If You Can See Me"

Wailing abstract vocals with a skittering, dancefloor-ready hi-hat and snare combo open this uptempo number, while constant keyboard stabs lend the track extra urgency. "If you can see me, I can see you," Bowie sings, completing the unsettling picture. By the song's end, a whirling middle-range siren signals a slow fade featuring a slowed-down version of the vocals that began the song.

8. "I'd Rather Be High"

A clean guitar lead opens this fairly standard track. Bowie employs a Space Oddity-influenced, roundabout melody as he talk-sings half out of breath. It's the least interesting track so far, but it's still a pleasant little pop ditty.

9. "Boss of Me"

The excellent "Boss of Me" features more saxophone over a programmed hi-hat tapping out a stuttering rhythm. It's a funky song, reminiscent of the title in terms of its aural proximity to Heroes, thick with timbre, doubled vocals and layered harmonies. The soaring bridge is a nice touch.

10. "Dancing Out in Space"

It's title is indicative: a simple, chipper drumbeat opens, while flanging guitars and synths soar overhead. "Dancing Out in Space" is Bowie simply having fun and is by far the poppiest track on The Next Day.

11. "How Does the Grass Grow"

Insistent piano-pounding with harpsichord-sounding accents feature up front as Bowie waxes whiny with a "yeah yeah yeah" singing motif. The song features a stately bridge, where the melody is the highlight. By the end, it's back to the repetitive "yeahs" and pounding keys, and its titular refrain.

12. "(You Will) Set the World on Fire"

The Next Day features no inter-track fades or thoughful sequencing; it feels more like a collection of songs than the execution of a greater vision. This song's big rock beginning, with distorted guitar and stop-start toms and snare, announces it as Bowie's jock jam. Female vocal harmonies in glammy chorus save the song from its boring verse guitar riff is boring, but a clunky, obligatory guitar solo feels formulaic.

13. "You Feel So Lonely You Could Die"

Cymbals ting along to this delicate acoustic waltz, but still, big drum sounds feature, and are emerging by this point as a theme. Cello stabs decorate the pre-chorus, but it's the chorus that's grand. Its operatic crescendo is very Diamond Dogs, and the track overall is a perfect way to close out the album. Until "Heat," that is.

14. "Heat"

What begins with just a floor tom and simmering bass thrum is slowly joined by Bowie's fragile, haunted tenor, to which he adds harmonies as the ominous track builds. There's no climax, though: three minutes in, violins cross bows with counter-melodies, but the elegant, understated track works well because it leaves the listener to reflect on The Next Day.

As previously reported, The Next Day arrives via Columbia Records on March 12, but stay tuned tomorrow to hear the album in its entirety.

exclaim.ca


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