by Kevin Williamson
The whole world, it would seem, has fallen back in love with David Bowie. Today (on his 66th birthday) Bowie released Where Are We Now? – his first single for ten years. Going by first reactions the Midas touch which once seemed unassailable (1969-1983) may have returned. Where Are We Now? has gone straight to Number 1 on iTunes and Bowieheads, old and new, are re-affirming their vows of fidelity.
Its not a bad single it has to be said. The trademark vocal clarity and ambiguous haunting lyrics – so brutally annihilated in the Tin Machine era – sit beautifully on top of the lush arrangement. The song starts with a railway reference which I’m happy with. Okay, its not quite the epic pounding intro to ‘Station to Station’ but its good to see the man have a backward glance. Bowie’s greatest music was arguably his Berlin period in the mid-70s and the city is referenced in the next line. “As long as there’s fire,” croons the grand old dame of rock, melancholia crackling in the haze. Another backward nod, this time to Cat People perhaps? Five listens in the song still sounds not bad at all.
There’s a new album on the way too. ‘The Next Day‘ is released on 11th March and the track listing suggests an artist in reflective and self-referential mood:
‘The Next Day’
‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’
‘Love Is Lost’
‘Where Are We Now?’
‘If You Can See Me’
‘I’d Rather Be High’
‘Boss Of Me’
‘Dancing Out In Space’
‘How Does The Grass Grow’
‘(You Will) Set The World On Fire’
‘You Feel So Lonely You Could Die’
Damn it, this writer is excited. Bowie was a godlike presence to myself and to many teenagers in the 1970s. The first LP I ever bought was Aladdin Sane in 1974. It came with a printed lyric sheet which I pored over in my bedroom, night after night, trying to decipher ideas I was too young to understand or fully appreciate. I had no idea who Billy Doll was, nor what a quaalude was, but the words sounded exotic and otherworldly. The idea of Time falling wanking to the floor was, eh, way over my head, yet there was something captivating and mysterious at the heart of this music. There was nothing like it at the time. And as a first encounter with poetry it had quite an impact.
Anyway, back to the present, and it’s good to see the return of the wrinkly white Duke and on such great form too. It’s given us Bowie afficionados another chance to ask the question that once ranked alongside “What’s the meaning of life?” Namely: “What’s the greatest ever Bowie album?’
The answer, of course, is Station To Station. Ain’t it?