Thursday, March 28, 2013

Playlist: March


  • David Bowie—The Next Day (2013)
  • My Bloody Valentine—M.B.V. (2013)
  • Depeche Mode—Delta Machine (2013)
  • Low—The Invisible Way (2013)
  • Amplifier—Echo Street (2013)
  • Bass Communion—I (1998), II + III (1999), Atmospherics (1999), Molotov and Haze (2008)
  • Henry Fool—Men Singing (2013) 
  • Steely Dan—Can't Buy a Thrill (1972), Pretzel Logic (1974 )
  • The Waterboys—The Waterboys (1983), An Appointment with Mr. Yeats (2011)
  • King Crimson—Larks' Tongues  in Aspic (40th Anniversary box set) (1973)
  • The Cocteau Twins—Milk and Kisses (1996)
  • Taj Mahal—Maestro (2008)
  • Patty Griffin—Flaming Red (1998), American Kid (2013)
  • John Grant—Pale Green Ghosts (2013)
  • Rush—Rush (1974), Fly By Night (1975), Caress of Steel (1975), 2112 (1976)

Back in January, I saw a paparazzi shot of David Bowie in the streets of New York. He looked typically dapper in a flat cap and was carrying a shopping bag. I remember thinking how sad it was that he'd retired from music. Bowie's final tour, which I saw twice, was incredible. He was enjoying a purple patch with the fairly good Reality album and, especially, its magnificent predecessor, Heathen. It felt as if Bowie's great creative momentum had been cut cruelly short by health issues following a heart attack.

Bowie's surprise return—a masterstroke of mystique and publicity—more than took care of unfinished business. The Next Day is so good that I have cravings to listen to it.

The Next Day is a prickly album with sharp edges rather than a complacently cozy one. It has enough energy to power the Manhattan grid. And it's his most stylistically varied record in a while, touching on various sounds from his career.

"If You Can See Me" is almost prog rock. "Heat" owes much to the influence of latter-day Scott Walker. "Where Are You Know" is wistful and emotional. And "Valentine's Day" has a killer twist in the lyric and a guitar riff to match.

This album is great driving music for the car. By the time I reach late-in-the-batting order songs such as "I'd Rather be High," "Boss of Me," "Dancing Out in Space," "How Does the Grass Grow" and "You Will Set the World on Fire," I have to be careful not to floor the pedal over the speed limit. Just great tunes that I want to sing along to. Even "Dirty Boys," a song that initially did nothing for me, has suddenly bloomed into a favorite.

A lot of writers and fans and friends have spent much of the past month arguing over where The Next Day stands in the Bowie pantheon. The reviews have been almost overwhelmingly positive even as some naysayers claim it's overrated and that the adulation for the album says more about how much we miss artists of Bowie's caliber than the music itself merits. To me, that's all very academic. And boring. I'm planning to listen to all 24 of the Bowie albums that I own in succession and maybe that'll give me some context and comparison. But I don't really care about ranking it right now, to be honest. All I know is that this album is tremendously exciting, energetic, stuffed with great tunes and highly addictive.

It's good to have you back, David.