David Bowie: The Next Day

David Bowie’s first album for a decade is bold, beautiful and baffling

5 out of 5 stars
David Bowie's new album, The Next Day, is 'an absolute wonder'

David Bowie’s new album, The Next Day, is ‘an absolute wonder’
25 Feb 2013

It is an enormous pleasure to report that the new David Bowie albumis an absolute wonder: urgent, sharp-edged, bold, beautiful and baffling, an intellectually stimulating, emotionally charged, musically jagged, electric bolt through his own mythos and the mixed-up, celebrity-obsessed, war-torn world of the 21st century.

Musically, it is stripped and to the point, painted in the primal colours ofrock: hard drums, fluid bass, fizzing guitars, shaded by splashes of keyboard and dirty rasps of horns. The 14 songs are short and spiky, often contrasting that kind of patent Bowie one-note declarative drawl with sweet bursts of melodic escape that hit you like a sugar rush. Bowie’s return from a decade’s absence feels very present, although full of sneaky backward glances.

Hints, references and echoes of the past abound.

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Lana Del Rey’s fake pop is the real deal

October 27th, 2011

Now that Lana Del Rey’s debut single Video Games has finally been released from its long internet gestation and floated straight into the UK top 10, perhaps all the pointless chatter about her authenticity will die down. She is a gorgeous-looking girl who made a spooky, emotionally bruised 21st century torch song about unrequited love. With the aid of an ethereally effective, lo-fi, cut-and-paste video, it rose up via the contemporary equivalent of word of mouth as a viral internet sensation. People saw it, heard it, liked it and, when it was finally made available in the market place, put their money where their tastes were and bought it. To everyone who cherishes this striking track, for whom it will become a part of the soundtrack of their lives, the fierce internet attacks on Del Rey for being some kind of fake should be a complete irrelevance.

It amazes me that anyone even talks about authenticity in the 21st century. Didn’t we go all postmodern at least two decades ago? We live in an age of instant worldwide communication, moving towards a kind of virtual omni-culture whose inhabitants are free to pick and choose from all kinds of sources in every aspect of their lives, including the creation of their own identities. We listen to blues music made in London (Kill It Kid) and Afro-pop from New York (Vampire Weekend). Nothing is pure, nothing is unadulterated, and, indeed, one of the most fascinating aspects of Del Rey is how knowing she seems to be, how many different sources she has brought together to create one alluringly original package. It is an inescapable irony that many of those uttering the most vociferous criticisms of her contrived image hide behind made-up names and phony avatars

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Bob Harris & the return of the Old Grey Whistle Test

11 Jul 2011

Music fans of a certain vintage will have been delighted to learn that The Old Grey Whistle Test, the BBC’s seminal rock programme, is to be revived for its 40th anniversary later this year. Curiously, however, the 16-part series will be broadcast on Radio 2.

“I grant that radio might seem a funny place for a television programme,” concedes Bob Harris, the veteran presenter, “but even when you disconnect the video from the audio, you’ve got this incredible archive of amazing performances that really have to be heard to be believed.

“The sound quality is fantastic and it’s striking how many of the great names of that time, the likes of Elton John, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Bob Marley, The Rolling Stones and so many huge talents, still provide the spine of playlists worldwide that we hear on radio to this day.”

It does mean, of course, that people will be able to appreciate the show’s eclectic variety of ’70s and ’80s music without having to cope with the fashions of the day, when jackets were often louder than the bands.

At 65, Harris himself certainly looks different, having long since cut his hippy hair and shaved off his beard. “People say I look younger now than I did then,” he says with a laugh.

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