Review: Reality

by Garry Mulholland / Q Magazine

2003

ARCH DUKE
AT LAST, HE’S BEGUN TO IMPROVE WITH AGE.
When you leave Bowie’s 26th studio album, Reality, behind, it’s the “I don’t know about you” refrain of closer Bring Me The Disco King that won’t leave you alone. And it’s true-after over 30 years of living on Planet David Bowie, he probably doesn’t know anything about us. But at last half of Reality sounds like a guy who’s at least interested in talking to us again. Much like real reality, the follow-up to the critically acclaimed, million-selling Heathen begins in confusion amid business as usual, before revelations bring moments of clarity_and Bowie’s best music since Scary Monsters. Recorded in New York with his touring band-his most enduring creative partner, producer (and bassist) Tony Visconti, vocalist Gail Ann Dorsey, pianist Mike Garson, drummer Sterling Campbell and guitarist Earl Slick and Gerry Leonard-the 49-minute, 11-track set edges towards excellence gradually, as if finding purpose and point through shedding layers of artifice. The vague references to current violent events contained within the likes of Fall Dog Bombs The Moon and New Killer Star are rather undercut by a tuneless cover of Jonathan Richman’s Pablo Picasso and the fussy, self-referential irony of Never Get Old, a “co-promotion” (whatever that means) with Vittel Water which heavily features the line “There’s never gonna be enough money”. But Evian may be slow to co-promote the likes of the Iggy-tributing title track, the dramatically weary The Loneliest Guy, beautiful but disquieting George Harrison/Ronnie Spector cover Try Some, Buy Some, and the exquisite moody jazz ballad of Bring Me The Disco King, with their ambivalence toward old age, amusement and anger at Manhattan excess, and somewhat confessional take on the lie of the pleasure culture. If Bowie’s great ’70s era was buoyed by a reckless hedonist adventure followed by an elegantly exhausted ennui, then the best of Reality sounds like a man coming to terms with what was lost in those mad years and the saving graces of love and stability. The 56-year-old family man here still sounds on the side of the young dudes. But Bowie did get old. And, in Reality, it suits him. ****


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