I decided to write a review while listening to the album, it’s 06:47am. It starts with a lot of ray guns. There is a religious theme from the outset. Like Leonard Cohen, Bowie eventually found something beyond a diet of milk, chilli and cocaine. Who knows, maybe celebrities get bored. I’ve interpreted it as some kind of Station to Station Religious fetish. “Blackstar” starts the album on a high note, it’s a shame in some senses that this isn’t echoed throughout the rest of the album.
David Bowie is a living legend, throughout a 30 year career he has gone from eclectic folky music to soul and back again. In 2013, the surprise release of The Next Day marked his return after a 10 year hiatus in which no new music had been released. Coming back with a swirling N.Y.C Jazz band, Bowie is now strictly a studio artist but always ahead of the times.
The next track is a re-recording of Tis Pity She Was A Whore, a lot of gorilla on valium growling. Very desperate vocals which permeate the majority of Blackstar. It’s almost like some kind of unfulfilled drama. Lot of crazy saxophone. You almost imagine a derelict drunken Bowie in an alley. Good for fans of heavy drums, but will it fill clubs? Bowie clearly doesn’t care, he knows we’ll lap it up.
“Lazarus”, Based upon the new musical based upon “The Man Who Fell To Earth”, has some self referential lyricism, makes me think of what it must be like, how can Bowie have a cup of coffee without a fan visiting for an autograph? Bowie has scars that can’t be seen. Although it’s written for the musical ‘Lazarus’ the majority of people will view it as a singular work. The Cure are certainly an influence in the guitar section.
Sue, (In the Season of the Crime) is another reworked drama, likely recorded around the time of Tis Pity She Was A Whore Bowie wanders through a story of a relationship despite the happily married life , yet I can’t help thinking Bowie is better at a broader connection to the world than a pion to a single woman, drink or deity. He’s had ice in his veins ever since he launched Major Tom.
With this in mind, it’s interesting that his most creative period was during his self imposed exile to Berlin. Where he pulled down the blinds and said “Fuck em’” a state now impossible to him. While releasing albums on the sly seems anarchic. There is so much preparation for Blackstar, that it doesn’t rival U2’s Songs of Innocence which appeared out of nowhere, delivering a series of tracks with coherent stories and themes throughout.
Girl Loves Me borrows so much from Clockwork Orange, even referencing the iconic Chestnut Tree from 1984. It’s a very yearning anthem. It’s one of those rare songs that needs more of the central hook: “Where the fuck did Monday go?” Something every fresher can relate to. I feel Bowie explored his fascination with futurism and Clockwork Orange on Diamond Dogs and this feels like an outtake of those sessions.
Dollar Days has all the vocals of the first track, an almost yearning, yet dismissive song wiping away all the ancient fascination with England. Almost an acknowledgement of Bowie’s exile into New York. Again a lot of Saxophone solo’s like a Jazz spinal tap. Around this moment, you hear that Bowie uses a similar vocal throughout the album that begins on the drop of Blackstar.
I can’t give everything away begins with a saxophone mimicking A New Career in a New Town Perhaps autobiographical. Even the repeating refrain; “I can’t give everything away” For someone who has tried to explore his entire soul though music. With a voice that can go from silk to sandpaper. A man who can go from whiskey breakfasts with Iggy Pop to being punched by Lou Reed. Who really knows what goes on inside Bowie’s head? Does Bowie know?
David Bowie remains an enigma, he lives in New York with his wife and children. Is there much more to know? Does David still have trouble distinguishing between himself and Ziggy or does it all seem like a dream? We will never know. Blackstar is worth a listen, but for anyone seeking an insight into Bowie or the smoother tones of the 70’s period. I’m afraid this is not an easily penetrable or indeed reviewable album.