Wednesday, 8 May 2013
The polarising career of Kate Nash is rather testament to her individuality. In 2007, atop the crest of the whole Myspace-indie pop thing going on in the UK (that ignited such predictably shortlived bandwagons as Klaxons, the Pigeon Detectives and Jamie T), Nash's debut Made of Bricks smashed its way into #1 on our album charts and made us all forget about her counterpart Lily Allen. Similar to Allen was that backlash - but rather than a purist whinging over her celebrity parents' riches, a lot of Nash's hate was directed purely at the musical output: her colloquial vocal delivery, her dear-diary confessional and crude lyrics, and her overtly simple production values. It certainly made her stand out, but sadly pissing people off is part and parcel of making it in music today, and a lot of extremely good songs - Pumpkin Soup, Mouthwash, Merry Happy - were overlooked because of that "fitter/bitter" line in Foundations.
But the release of 2010's My Best Friend is You was greeted a little more warmly. I, for the life of me, cannot understand that. It was a pretty shit album, right? With the exception of lead single Do-Wah-Doo, which I quite rightly tipped as one of the best three singles of the year, it was just an untidy handbag of nonsense. And then there was last year's just... weird rock EP. Is there anything left in Kate Nash to find exciting? Or maybe I'm just a faghag for pop music. A frightening premise.
Immediately the influences of the likes of Courtney Love, Juliette Lewis and other such bad-asses are made clear: 'Part Heart' is a moody, building chunk of resentment, each sentence beginning "and it doesn't matter...", and complete with feedback closure. But then she unleashes some almighty Romantics tribute-work on 'Fri-end?', and given its straightforward tempo and chords it's little more than a nice pastiche. She still carries off the occasional hit: 'Death Proof' is suitably Tarantinoesque with its blues licks and jumpy rhythm, whilst she plays the romantically vague damsel on 'Are You There, Sweetheart?' observing "You're always watching my neck from the back of the room/ But you never even care". It's repetitive, but the tune is fine and enjoyable. But she really lets go and evolves on 'Sister', where notes are intentionally out of key and a frenetic punk attitude and song structure take centre stage. Lyrically she flips between unintentional raucousness ("Being ripped away from you, is like being ripped out of a womb/
I'm sorry, is that too dramatic? I should just be far more placid") and slightly cringey resentment ("Oh my god, my my sister/ You were just like a blister"), but ultimately it's the album's focal point in her musical development.
Sadly, some of the more annoying habits of her earlier work resurface: the wacky titularisation of 'OMYGOD!' is unnecessary and cheapening, even if it's assigned to a slow rock & roll foot-tapper. The distortion, though well used at times, is often used - as on 'Oh' - as the easy substitute for tension and atmosphere, whilst the rest of the track is kind-of alienating bitter teenageisms ("Image freak/ The mirror lies to you and me/ You are alone on this one"). The anger resurfaces on 'All Talk', a thrashed-out collection of Tumblr kiss-offs and social networking "about me" sections ("And when you're close to my heart - it's undyingly yours/ But best not to forget - it's undeniably mine"), before she rejoices and screeches "It's funny how I got your attention" over the crescendo. It's an uncomfortable declaration, if only because she opens the next song ('Conventional Girl') with "I'm sick of being the bitch you think I am". It's a difficulty to balance the chip on her shoulder with her desire to be taken seriously and to be liked (romantically or otherwise).
There then comes 'Rap' - ! - 'for Rejection', where she, indeed whilst rapping, complains that she's "a stupid whore and a frigid bitch" and touches upon the innate misogyny in society (with a typically small but valid example of music magazines being associated with the men's sections in newsagents, whilst girls are left to critique each others' appearances and diets). It's a smart piece of satire. She kinda spoils it with the bratty shouting of 'Cherry Pickin'', a 4-chord punk ditty with a purely annoying vocal grate. Towards the end of the album the sounds vary up and it's jarring - 'Labyrinth' is a twee, hushed bit of shoegazing with layered vocals and overall niceness, whereas 'You're So Cool, I'm So Freaky' busts out the acoustic guitar. A crowd joins in with her statements of "I don't know how I feel/ Want to feel something real", giving a new sense of Belle & Sebastian-like folkpop to the record. Again, it's quite lovely, but not setting the world alight. She closes with the a capella 'Lullaby for an Insomniac', a sweet vocal performance effectively summarising her target audience: "Another day goes by and I don't wash my hair/ Another night is spent wishing you were here".
Ultimately, Nash still retains some of the petulance and naivete that made her previous incarnations as the cutesy pop-musician all the more endearing: here, she's just the awkward adolescent cutting out magazines and sticking them up on her wall, painting her nails black and reading blogs. Valid points are made, and promising moments are heard, but with minimal intrigue.
I blame Ryan Jarman.
Highlights: Sister; Death Proof; Rap for Rejection; Part Heart; You're so Cool, I'm so Freaky
Avoid: Fri-end?; Oh; Cherry Pickin'; All Talk
Artwork Watch: there are hearts and that is a girly thing to talk about isn't it
Up next: The Strokes
Friday, 3 May 2013
Everything about Bastille should read as irritating: the use of the triangle in their band logo, the use of their music in the ads we skip before YouTube videos, frontman Dan Smith's hair. They've even got that token new-cool-thing about them that the UK gets behind in their droves to give a debut #1 (see: Ed Sheeran, Emeli Sande). Let's not even touch naming yourself after the pinnacle of the French Revolution on the whim of sharing a birthday with it.
Wisely starting on their strongest merit - the single 'Pompeii' - they immediately unleash about three simultaneous hooks. The most obvious is their chanted vocal refrain, a sort of Lion King homage that, if anything, sticks in the head. Lyrically, the song suffers a lot from cliches ("the walls kept tumbling down/ grey clouds roll over the hills") and a touch of megalomania (comparing a romantic turmoil with the explosion of Vesuvius? See the music video for more ridiculousness). Smith's vocals turn to more schmaltzy nonsense in 'Things We Lost in the Fire', a kind of effortless rehash of Pompeii with repetitive lyrics and zero resonance. The album's title track is inclined a little more to the electronic side of things but again cops out with some "oh-oh-oh" vocal refrains as the sole attempt at a pop hook. "I hear you calling in the dead of night" he huskily moans on 'Overjoyed', a title that doesn't quite live up to its billing.
"All that's left behind is a shadow on my mind" is cried with some vague attempt at depth on 'These Streets', before one of the catchier tracks - the wobbly-vocals of 'Weight of Living' - takes hold. Sadly, if you are a FIFA 13 player, the song's already been drilled to death in the parts of your subconscious you block out whilst trying to manage wage budgets. Unfortunate. They revert then to the "I've looked at a Wikipedia page of something interesting and slapped some thoroughly unrelatable modern angst on it" shtick on 'Icarus', a track that drowns in its own monotony. They do manage some earnest tenderness though and Smith's vocals are occasionally sweet: on 'Oblivion' his whispers and falsettos are inoffensively lovely. Aforementioned YouTube botherer 'Flaws' boasts the album's most interesting musical composition, and - this may be a personal thing - rather billed the rest of the album as the Mumford & Sons of electropop for me (when M&S were good, that is).
The album does bow out with some of the strongest tracks on display: 'Daniel in the Den' has a rather unsubtle stab at a former lover's betrayal ("and felled in the night by the ones you think you love/ they will come for you") over a pretty, drawn back instrumental. Newest single 'Laura Palmer' is one of the most bombastic, and at least tugs at the heartstrings through commanding musical presence. They end, though, with 'Get Home', which resurrects some of the melodies from 'Pompeii' under the album's most nonsensical and tedious lyrics. "There's a light in the bedroom, but it's dark/ Scattered around on the floor are my thoughts". Seriously?
They're not a terrible band, Bastille. They're just the type of band that make you question whether keeping up with new music is a venture you want to continue. They also have the tragic side effect of belittling a range of mythology and historical events, so... big thumbs down here.
Highlights: Flaws; Pompeii; Oblivion; Laura Palmer; Daniel in the Den
Avoid: Icarus; These Streets; Overjoyed; Things We Lost in the Fire
Artwork Watch: silly person that is a road you aren't a car
For fans of: Mumford & Sons; fan-made YouTube videos of Doctor Who romances; being force fed new 'alternative' music by BBC Radio 1
Up next: Kate Nash
Sunday, 28 April 2013
It is now common courtesy for the music industry to conjure at least one new artist per year that adheres to the whole Best Coast/Cults cute-girl vocal over lo-fi indie pop angle. It should be common courtesy that such ventures are executed with clever, or catchy, or in the very least intriguing results. What made Asobi Seksu and Cults and Best Coast's debuts (or sophomore, in the case of AS) so engaging were their takes on garage, Motown and surf-rock respectively, and all of them being from the US may have at least exposed them to such varied sounds early on. But for UK band The History of Apple Pie - and yes, it is an awful band name - British indie rock classics are pretty hard to come by.
I discovered the band by accident: they were the iTunes free single of the week a while back. The London fivesome are as close to the dreampop line as it is possible to tread, and given all of these minor complaints you'd be forgiven for thinking I had something against them. They look nice, they sound nice, and that free song (See You) was excellent. So what is it about them that prevents me from loving it all? It may simply be a lack of originality.
From the very start on 'Tug', singer and co-songwriter Stephanie Min makes it clear that she's happy to sit incoherently in the background and let other co-songwriter Jerome Watson blow everyone away with some fine, but slightly typical guitarwork. It's pretty, but unsubstantial, and is devastatingly exposed as such when followed by the magnificence of 'See You'. Even from its initial electronic rills it's just hammering out hooks and cuteness and euphoria, whilst its bittersweet lyrics ("I've got so much left to give/ and I miss you") delivered calmly certify its cool credentials. It's followed by the equally joyous 'Mallory' and its feelgood riffs. Beneath that, though? The vaguest mutters of vocals and some carefree "ooh"s.
And that's Out of View's biggest flaw. Under all of the bluster and inoffensive tunes there's a problem with depth: 'The Warrior' and 'Glitch' sort-of merge into the same song for me with their bold attempts at a drum-loop here or ghostly vocals there, and both struggle to keep alive in your head after they've ended. Every so often they strike gold and get that killer riff - like that of 'You're so Cool' - and the side-effect is more than distracting; it's wonderful. 'I Want More' has the lucky benefit of having come on when scrolling past this dude:
All of the components are there for an enjoyable album, and for some, this may be the first record they discover that ticks all of its lo-fi, post-Britpop boxes. I can say with some level of certainty though that it's also a record that'll fall down the back of the musical sofa. It's warm and nice enough to at least make it onto the beloved sofa, but it's just not that special, unfortunately.
Highlights: See You; You're So Cool; Mallory; Do it Wrong; Long Way to Go
Avoid: Before You Reach the End; Glitch; The Warrior
Artwork Watch: What with the other photos and the band name, you can't help but speculate whether this is a Fast Food Rockers sideproject.
For fans of: Yuck; The Go! Team; Asobi Seksu
Up next: Bastille
Friday, 26 April 2013
It's not a secret any more that Timbaland has a tendency of late - and by 'of late' I mean anything after 2007 - to rather over-egg his production duties and leave his work with the trudging monotony of a uniquely Timbaland variety. Madonna's Hard Candy, Bjork's Volta and Jay-Z's third Blueprint were all testament to a hit-and-miss, uninspired detour that the man had taken not months after M.I.A.'s excellent Kala or Nelly Furtado's single-handed greatest hits Loose. One such artist that remained firmly rooted in Timbaland's list of successes due to a musical hiatus was Justin Timberlake. 2006's FutureSex/LoveSounds was that rarest of albums: a massive commercial success and simultaneously an artistic, slick masterpiece of pop music. It's conjured all sorts of contemporary assertions that 2006 was a better time for music than today (conveniently ignoring, of course, McFly covering the Beatles, Akon's apex and the fact that Mariah Carey still had a career).
With the sudden release of Mirrors, there was a rush of excitement and a genuine feeling that Timbaland had regained his Midas touch. Who else could pull off an 8-minute #1 hit that was as magnificent as it was successful? Unfortunately, it's that length and the more-than-occasional tendency to drift off and let beats and sections go on for too long that make the 20/20 Experience seem somewhat unfocussed.
Swanning in with his very own Bond themelike orchestral introduction, 'Pusher Love Girl' straight away gets across the album's central classy vibe (later to be done to almost parody lengths on Suit and Tie). Melodically it's pretty sound, and there's a resplendence about it that's certainly appealing, but clocking in at eight minutes and two seconds it's just not remotely boasting enough ideas to require the billing. The rattling in the last three minutes, separated by Timbaland's signature "ah"s and "yeah"s, particularly grates, and leaves Timberlake with the uncomfortable task of riffing more and more about drug/addiction/love metaphors ("Uh, my nicotine, my blue dream, my hydroponic candy jelly bean / Did you fix me up, I'm your number 1 fiend" - really?) It's this laziness and boredom that completely spoils the introduction to 'Suit & Tie', the album's lead single. The opening 42 seconds - just why? What's the point? Build momentum and suspense? We've just had four unnecessary minutes. Boast some form of swag with the "suit and tie shit"? Kanye pretty much tore up that claim. Once the single gets into its stride, however, it is on fire - a sublime concoction of horns, innocent flirtatious lyrics and background harps. Its greatest strength though is Timberlake's vocal, a showcasing falsetto with some really fun rhythms. Jay-Z, however, does his usual waning-career pop appearance that really stretches the memory as to when he last did a good verse. The production of 'Don't Hold the Wall' then brings in various other cultures to the track's central beat, giving it a vaguely Indian subcontinent appeal. Again, though, it's ultimately seven minutes of asking a girl to loosen up a bit - although there're enough distractions to make you lose track of time; the second half especially livens up the party.
We come to the album's first true nadir with 'Strawberry Bubblegum': a song as innocuously sickly-sweet as the title would suggest. Though to some there may be some intrigue in a celebrity marriage and the vibrant romance between the pair, it all just completely bores me. "You and me: that's the recipe for a good time/ and it ain't really nothing but clothes in the way" he smoulders in the second verse, and if that doesn't make you cringe you need to tone down your libido. 'Tunnel Vision' then stretches out his devotion for Biel with a whole camera-fixation spiel - admittedly over a far catchier and more interesting instrumental. The daftness steps up a notch though with 'Spaceship Coupe': "We'll cruise around/ Land and make love on the moon/ would you like that?" I doubt it Justin, since you'd both suffocate instantly.
Some successful attempts at cool are made, though: the club-speaker intro to 'That Girl' with Timberlake's live orchestra 'JT and the Tennessee Kids' is a nice touch, and kicks off a slow, nice jazz jam. There's even an element of Gloria Estefan about the hugely rambunctious 'Let the Groove Get In' and its Burkina Faso inspiration, although again, it could really do with being at least two minutes shorter. One song I'll happily endure in its fullest is second single 'Mirrors', an overblown classic Timbaland production split into two parts: the first, a slick, melodic and anthemic proclamation of love, and the second a tender and purely idiosyncratic moment. The lyrics are totally corny, sure (note to self: drop the 90s colloquialisms), but they are delivered with enough passion to last a lifetime, and the ending sequence feels more like the sweet post-coital whisperings than any of the album's other attempts at pillow talk. We conclude (on the standard edition, anyway - I haven't got time for your deluxe editions) with 'Blue Ocean Floor', another slice that could just as easily have been lifted from 2006-Justin. It's a pretty cute allusion to being able to escape the world and tap into one another as soulmates, and its reeling, hushed production really adds a layer of authenticity to an otherwise showy album.
Really, the only song truly able to keep me interested for its entirety is the adorability-fest of Mirrors: there, at least, the drawn out ending had melodic diversions, romantic moments and the feeling that this was more than one stretched out dreary song. That complaint befalls much of The 20/20 Experience, and whilst some of the pieces and ideas promise intrigue, they are hammered to death by Timbaland's inability to know when to call it quits. Timberlake, on the other hand, is on fine form, and rightly lays claim to the current apex of male popstars (we can't say King of Pop okay so just don't). Let's hope this whole idea that he's the king of cool disappears pretty fast, because it's hard to take a former Mickey Mouse Playhouse member without a small hint of irony.
also, fuck pitchfork for giving this a higher score than Bowie's comeback. fuck it up the ass.
Highlights: Mirrors; Let the Groove In; Pusher Love Girl; That Girl
Avoid: Strawberry Bubblegum; Spaceship Coupe
Artwork Watch: If only such clarity in vision had been applied to the songwriting :(
Up next: The History of Apple Pie
Tuesday, 23 April 2013
Okay: first shock out of the way. That's not a woman's voice. The pearly-loveliness that poured out of my headphones one day as I listened to 'The Fall' is none other than one-half-of-Rhye Mike Milosh. I initially wondered if they'd gotten a hold of UK Moyet-revivalist Clare Maguire, or perhaps Sade to do it, but no, Rhye can now be added to that list of gender-bending vocal lushness in dance music that currently houses Hercules and Love Affair, Toto's Steve Luthaker (on I Won't Hold You Back, later a hit for DJ Roger Sanchez as Another Chance) and Washed Out.
The Canadian Milosh already has two solo albums in the mid-noughties under his belt, but has now teamed up with Danish Robin Hannibal (and at this point you may too be asking why 'Milosh and Hannibal' wasn't the name of choice), also of duo Quadron, whose other half's currently gallavanting with Baz Luhrmann's Gatsby soundtrack and Tyler, the Creator tracks.
After a brief orchestral intro (complete with harps), 'Open' initiates the album with sensitive and tender devotion. "I'm a fool for that shake in your thighs/ I'm a fool for that sound in your sighs", Milosh reveals, with appropriate swoonage, whilst a gentle horn breaks up the serenity occasionally, as if wary of ruining the mood. It's quite inevitably been heralded as a very sexy song, and that's nice. Much prettier and simpler is the R&B melody of 'The Fall', a song desperately crying out for 'lounge classic' status with a hefty claim. It's simultaneously cute and engaging, with the strings twirling lushly over the minimalist piano beat. Lyrically there are times where one is reminded of teenage MSN custom names with lyrics like "tell me lies and lullabies", the opener to 'Last Dance', an otherwise fine groove with a slight hook. By 'Verse' it's like the album's stripping itself of volume (to continue the whole sexiness metaphor), and masquerading as some kind of Antony + the Johnsons sideproject with its fancy string sections and little else.
The echoed vocals and groovy bass guitar of 'Shed Some Blood', blended with the lyrics' hints at a kind of jetsetting loneliness ("Speeding my way home on this road to oblivion/ Don't wanna hear your voice on the phone") - and being a Danish, Canadian pair living in L.A. there must be some element of long-distance relationships coming into play - rather intensify the sensuality of the album, whilst '3 Days' does well to reinvigorate a dance atmosphere over the pretense of devouring a lover on a weekend ("Stealing kisses in those bloody sheets/ I'm killing you"). It's a shame, though, that the pair pause and gaze off wearily into the sunset on the understated 'One of Those Summer Days', a soft-jazz bit of melancholy summed up rather briefly by the offhand "I wish you could see it". Were the lyrics opened up a little more it could be enrapturing, because the arrangement behind it is one of the album's most evocative.
Elements of self-doubt and awareness of bad intentions slip into the ultra-seductive 'Major Minor Love', where Milosh talks listlessly of "win[ning] over that side of you/ be that pretty noise for you" all the while reminding himself "I'm so bad" and vowing to "be that pain across your face" in the future. It's startlingly honest, which is somewhat refreshing. Fans of a good old boogie might want to jump straight in at 'Hunger', the funkiest arrangement - although if you've followed chronologically you might be a little more than used to the whole desire/sex lyrical theme ("I'll show my teeth, pull a sword from the sheets"). Heck, even by the end - 'Woman' - even Milosh has been reduced to repeating the word woman in increasingly desperate and languid moans.
There is a repetition and shallowness in some of the lyrics that holds me back from totally falling in love with the album, but it's an incredibly small and quickly forgotten complaint when thrown back into the album's strongest points. An incredibly sensual and gorgeous listen, it's more of a greedy, consumptive half-hour gorgefest of slick beats and sweet strings than an explosive or groundbreaking hour. Which, of course, will risk it being forgotten in the long run up against 2013's inevitable big guns, but this is very much an album that can be revisited again and again - if not just for your Marvin Gaye Let's Get it On soundtrack.
Highlights: The Fall; Hunger; Open; 3 Days; Shed Some Blood
Artwork Watch: Sexy.
For fans of: Washed Out, Jessie Ware, the Alison Moyet half of Yazoo
Up next: Justin Timberlake
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
Those of you who are thinking folk might have realised by now that I'm a bit of a Bowie fan. On January 6 this year, I was one of those clichéd giddy young folk reacting to a Twitter buzz at about 7am with far more energy and excitement than is required for such an early hour. Then, of course, came Where Are We Now? and its will-it-won't-it charting kerfuffle, and it was all a little bit too good to be true. A whole decade had passed since the admittedly average Reality, and whilst the die-hard fans have been slightly quelled by appearances in The Prestige and Extras, and some background musical work with Arcade Fire, Scarlett Johansson and TV on the Radio, there was indeed the growing fear that the Thin White Duke had retired for good.
The album's artwork has been the focus of much of the buzz around The Next Day: a cheeky wink to his classic albums, and somewhat of a visual reminder that David Bowie himself doesn't exactly show his face a lot anymore. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, though, and such a prolonged one has made the man the hot favourite for this year's Mercury Prize. Will the album warrant it? (Well the Alt-J one didn't but that's beside the point)
Initially the music is rather typical of his post-1996 (and weird industrial alien-botherer Bowie) work: the title track a sturdy but unremarkable rocker with a decent enough chorus to let you last it out, but nothing really begging to be heard again. The tempo's then reduced a bit for the brassy, horn-driven 'Dirty Boys'. "When the sun goes down and the die is cast/ You have no choice" Bowie warns of those who endeavour to "smash some windows, make a noise". Sadly, it's potentially the least convincing chronicle of rebellious youth imaginable, and struggles to capture any imagination. The same thankfully cannot be said of second single 'The Stars (Are Out Tonight)' and its kooky, slightly mad music video. As though appearing himself wasn't enough, Tilda Swinton is bagged and the androgynousness abounds with two rather gorgeous models. The song itself is a catchy yet damning portrayal of young celebrity: "They burn you with their radiant smiles/ trap you with their beautiful eyes/ they're broke and shamed or drunk and scared", he observes, with bedazzled satire. Things get even darker but carry on the newfound fame thematics with the organ-led 'Love is Lost': "Say goodbye to the thrills of life!" he warns, as someone picks up a new house. "Your maid is new, your accent too/ but your fear is as old as the world".
Fear is endemic at this point: the poignant and beautiful lead single ballad 'Where Are We Now?' poses the timeless question of existentialism and, through the poring over of Berlin memories, reveals the Thin White Duke to be something of an aimless, empty man. The ending refrains do more than enough to put a sunny outlook on things, though, and as the drums swell Bowie reminds himself of the constants - "as long as there's me/ as long as there's you". A much happier trip to the past is the Mott the Hoople-evoking 'Valentine's Day', the album's strongest hook by far. The lyrics, however, tell the tale of a teenage shooter: "Valentine told me who's to go/ Feelings he's treasured most of all/ the teachers and the football star", Bowie sings, with frightening breeze. We then jump forward about twenty Bowie years to the frenetic drumming and Outside-sounding 'If You Can See Me'. It's energetic, and far more so than you'd expect a 66 year old to be, but not gripping. Similarly, 'I'd Rather Be High' boasts some fine guitarwork from Gerry Leonard, but little else. Leonard co-writes 'Boss of Me', a saxier bit of bass fineness. By 'Dancing Out in Space' you're wondering if Bowie is deliberately parodying himself so far as the song titles, and the drums are a little too reminiscent of far superior works - Modern Love, perhaps, or Lust For Life.
After a fairly hefty chunk of averageness the hope for a classic is somewhat deteriorated, but 'How Does the Grass Grow?' does valiantly to erase that memory. Although there's potential to ruin it by waiting for guest vocals from Elmo (try to tell me it's not him), the Shadows-sampling singalong vibe of it all certainly reignites the album. Lyrically, the track is reminiscent of PJ Harvey's Let England Shake: "where do the boys lie? Mud, mud, mud/ how does the grass grow? Blood, blood, blood". Its placing before '(You Will) Set the World on Fire' - and its prosperous illustration of the folk scene in the '60s - may lose a few of us, but it's fine. Certainly, for many, the high point of The Next Day will be the Ziggy epoch 'You Feel So Lonely You Could Die', a kind of halfway point between 'Rock N Roll Suicide' and 'Five Years'. A billing that demands a heck of a lot of theatricality and melancholy, but it delivers. "Oblivion shall own you/ death alone shall love you", Bowie triumphantly sings, before the drum solo from Five Years carries our corpse out in tranquility. A fine ending point, you'd agree, but 'Heat' follows, and it's a marvellously dark Scott Walker-esque "I don't know who I am" send-off.
The album's effectively been billed by many critics and musicians as something of a collective of all of Bowie's various guises and resurrections. That there are so many and Bowie manages to swerve inbetween them with ease and precision shows a clear fondness for his work and legacy. Sure, some of the songs might pose dark questions and a general sense of confusion, but much of The Next Day feels celebratory. Maybe the ten years leading up to it have influenced the feel-good vibes, but there's an obviously improved work in the songwriting here that should leave TND as one of Bowie's later classics. Some will of course sigh and dither and hold it up to Hunky Dory or Low or Ziggy and draw the obvious conclusions - this isn't as good as them - but where's the fun in that? Going through music over the decades only sticking to the greats can be a lonely business and leave you wishing you could have, I don't know, seen U2 or Prince in the 80s, or McCartney in the 60s (although indeed, hoping to see the Starman nowadays might be waiting in vain). There are none so prolific as Bowie when it comes to engaging the audience over such prolonged periods of time, and The Next Day serves as a firm holding hand for the more enduring music lovers.
Highlights: Valentine's Day; Where Are We Now?; (You Will) Set the World on Fire; How does the Grass Grow?; You Feel So Lonely You Could Die
Avoid: Dirty Boys; Dancing Out in Space
Artwork Watch: A little bit audacious. Rife for parody. The usual.
Up next: Rhye