The Next Day / David Bowie

In the early 2000s, following the release of two successful records, pop rock icon David Bowie retired from the music business. Of course, musicians’ retirements never last, and the man behind Ziggy Stardust has now released his first album in a decade.

While some would label it a comeback, “The Next Day” is just another solid addition to Bowie’s library of albums – now numbering 24. He doesn’t try to reinvent himself here, or dwell on old tunes.

The album begins with the vigorous title track, a thumping proto-punk offering with the catchy chorus, “Here I am, not quite dying / my body left to rot in a hollow tree.” The aging rock star incorporates themes of growing old and the inevitable. But he does so with enough piss and vinegar that the album never sounds dated or nostalgic. At 66, Bowie is as contemporary as he’s ever been.

The second track, “Dirty Boys,” has been heralded for its cool swanky blues vibe, but for me it edges too close to cliche. I prefer the later addition of “Boss of Me,” a blend of Morphine-inspired, saxophone-driven melody and Talking Heads rhythm. In fact, while the first half of “The Next Day” is weighted toward catchier songs — like the soft, sweet, slow-going first single, “Where Are We Now?” — it’s the second half of this 14-track album that honors, and enhances, Bowie’s greatness. “(You Will) Set The World On Fire” and “I’d Rather Be High” are arena rocks songs gone weird, packing the punch that’s Bowie’s signature.

“The Next Day” is, simply put, fun listening. It’s impressive that Bowie’s oddball brand of pop rock continues to intrigue nearly a half-century after his first recordings.

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