Perhaps one of the only musical visionaries of the late 20th and 21st century who needs no introduction, David Bowie has already made a splash in 2013 with his first album in ten years, and arguably his best since “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps,” entitled “The Next Day.”
The enigmatic album begins with the snarling, standout title track, sounding like an evolution of his Berlin days with its aggressive, yet entirely danceable, post-punk arrangements, obscure lyricism and vocal work that pierces listeners with a very real sense of urgency. (Considering the song deals with a criminal running for his life, listeners can chalk this up as another tormented Bowie character frame done chillingly well.) The minor key murkiness continues through “Dirty Boys,” a blues dirge that lurches along in distorted cacophony until the chorus shines through the song’s black clouds.
Bowie takes us to the heavens in the slick “The Stars (Are Out Tonight),” the musical equivalent of a black limo ride through space, complete with meditations on, or jabs at, celebrity culture. “Love is Lost” follows and, along with “How Does the Grass Grow?” evokes the emotional masterwork of “Ashes to Ashes."
He even flirts with the love song on the appropriately titled “Valentine’s Day,” but not without a classic sense of Bowie-esque irony in that the song represents the “icy heart” of a high schooler and his motives for wanting to open fire at fellow students and teachers.
The album continues to showcase Bowie’s broad musical sensibility, channeling everything from his humble folk beginnings in the soaring single “Where Are We Now?” to the world-weary glam stomp of Diamond Dogs in “Boss of Me” to the Low-drenched, utterly frightening closer “Heat.”
Throughout “The Next Day” Bowie continues to surprise listeners with experimental, sublimely crafted songs. Whether he’s toying with space rock psychedelia in the loops, odd guitar parts and what sounds like machinery in “Dancing Out in Space” or delivering soaring arena rockers, “(You Will) Set the World on Fire,” that would not feel out of place on a Springsteen album, Bowie manages to prove both his vitality and incontestable, ever-evolving musical genius in the 21st century all the while making us sway, sing, cry and brood with his unfathomable intellectual depth.