Bowie’s comeback is fuelled by darkness

by Eamon Carr / The Irish Herald

2nd March 2013

Two men have dominated the headlines recently. One for retiring, the other for making a comeback.

There was a similar fuss in 1973 when David Bowie claimed he was retiring as there has been for Pope Benedict XVI.

Bowie, Ziggy Emeritus if you will, has kept us guessing ever since. Especially by not releasing an album since 2003’s Reality following a health scare on tour.

It’s said that Benedict jacked it in a broken man, shamed by the scandals, including worldwide priestly child abuse.

 

Dispirited

On the new album, Bowie (66) often sounds dispirited, but, younger than the ex-Pope, he sounds like a man who still has plenty to say. Even if it’s not all positive.

Rightly, we often ridicule rock’n’roll. But, at its best, it nails certain artistic truths and, with the exception of Jimmy Savile, it tends to avoid global cover-ups.

“I am a liar,” sings Bowie on Heat, the final of these 14 new songs. It’s a murky track that nods to the work of Scott Walker. But it’s not the only cut that’s consumed by dread, anxiety and nostalgia viewed through a glass darkly.

 

Dominate

“Can’t get enough of that doomsday song,” he chimes on the title track, where the riffs reference his heyday without becoming pastiche. Veteran Bowie producer Tony Visconti presides.

Magpie-like, Bowie still peppers his work with arcane pop references. Honking burlesque saxophone on Dirty Boys, a vocal chorus revisiting the Shadows’ Apache riff on How Does The Grass Grow? and a Traffic-style psychedelic undertow to I’d Rather Be High.

More importantly, there are songs here that have the potential to dominate public consciousness over time. You Feel So Lonely You Could Die is an anthemic ballad that Morrissey might wish he’d written. How Does The Grass Grow is a riveting anti-war song. Dancing Out In Space is a novel floorfiller.

Yes, we’ve got a new Thin White Duke.

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